What I learned all those years ago was that in walking in the truth of my own vulnerable, fragile humanity, in reaching out and meeting a grieving person from this humbled place, God’s spirit can do healing, wondrous, sacred, profound work.
Years ago, I worked as a medical social worker and bereavement counselor in hospice. It was a role that was meaningful, profound, humbling, terrifying, and beautiful, often all at the same moment. There were so many times over the years when I wondered what difference I could make amid the deep pain of the loss being experienced around me. The reality of death was raw, biting, and indiscriminating. Death came to the young and old; the rich and poor; the solitary individuals and to those surrounded by family and friends.
Looking back on that time, I see a woman who began her work in hospice bearing a shield. I was often very frightened, and I felt very small. So I strode into a patient’s home like a knight grasping my armor, ready to fend off arrow and spear, terror and fear. Now, I feel such remorse as I remember that clinician. I must have come across as removed and protected and perhaps as if I was hiding behind a flimsy, false wall of knowledge and efficacy.
God was working on me, though, as death and pain and sorrow taught me time and again that all the protective mechanisms I conjured up were bound to fail. No matter how high my castle walls, death would still come to me and those I love. It seems miraculous, but the Holy Spirit was hard at work in me and on me, melting away my falseness, shattering my pride, stripping away the defenses I’d kept in place. I believe it was then, when by grace I learned to embrace my own naked vulnerability, that I began to develop into a person who could be a healing, loving presence for those who were grieving.
I have a favorite scripture passage that guides me now, from Ephesians 3:20: “Now all praise to God, who through the power at work within us is able to do far more than we could ask or imagine….” What I learned all those years ago was that in walking in the truth of my own vulnerable, fragile humanity, in reaching out and meeting a grieving person from this humbled place, God’s spirit can do healing, wondrous, sacred, profound work. When my vulnerable heart meets your broken one and we invite God’s presence, the Holy Spirit shows up with works beyond any I can do alone and with a power and mystery and love that teach me about life, death, and the resurrected Christ over and over again.
“Now all praise to God, who through the power at work within us can do far more than we could ask or imagine!”
Annie is a Bereavement Clinician at Cornerstone of Hope Columbus.