I recently had a hospice patient die. This isn’t unusual. In fact it’s a
daily occurrence since I personally serve about 50 patients at any given time—all of whom are terminally ill.
What made this patient different is that I had grown amazingly close to him and his family. They were wonderful Christian people whose love for my patient friend and for each other was exemplary. I remember seeing them gathered around his bed crying, laughing about funny memories, and comforting each other. They were wonderful!
I found myself getting emotional and even crying. When I left to go see them right after he passed away, my Nursing Supervisor said, “Remember, we’re there to comfort them, not the other way around.” “I know…I know,” I said, “I’m OK. I know what to do.”
As I drove to the family’s home, I thought about this more…is it
possible to be “too close to comfort?"
There is a philosophy of ministry which would answer that question with a resounding, "YES!" The idea is that you have to "keep a distance" and "not get too emotionally involved." If you're a pastor, you don't "let your guard down" and you don't "share too much of yourself, your life, your feelings, etc."
I've learned that this is, in Theological terms, a pile of poo! Truth is, the shortest and perhaps most powerful verse in the Bible is John 11:35, "Jesus wept." The Creator and Savior of the world stopped and cried with those who were grieving the loss of his friend, Lazarus.
Was he, "too close to comfort" them? Absolutely not.
Now to clarify, ministry should never be selfish. I DO need to remember, it's not about me. My purpose as a chaplain and pastor is to give care to those who are hurting, not to soak-up their care, appreciation, or need for me.
Still...sometimes we need just the opposite of what "conventional wisdom dictates. We need to drop our guard. We need to draw closer. We need to, as Jesus did, just stop and weep with those who are hurting (see I Cor. 12:26).
I'm going to try to do this more...why don't you join me?
To that end,