Wednesday, March 11, 2015

11 Questions to ask to diagnose your spiritual health

In a recent professional meeting, a certain leader’s name came up out of a sense of concern for the direction his leadership was taking him and his group. The direction seemed incongruous with what his group’s faith principles were about. Then, someone who knew this leader quite well mentioned that this deviant direction was in keeping with the fact that this leader lost his faith years ago. That comment lodged in my mind and really demands investigation. “Lost his faith”… years ago. How sad and tragic. Ministry is such a grind that it can completely deplete a pastor’s personal resources and leave him/her spiritually dry as the Gobi Desert. Let me focus on the same experience for a hospice Chaplain. The demands of his/her hospice agency, the challenges of the entire task itself, and life in general can leave the Chaplain spiritually weakened. Are there certain instances within hospice that can cause a Chaplain to lose his/her faith? Pediatric hospice can do it. Trauma hospice can do it. Adolescent hospice can do it. The variety of ‘unfair’ diseases can do it. Each of these and many more can sap the spiritual strength of any Chaplain after many years of hospice service. So, what is there to prevent total spiritual and faith breakdown? Certainly, loss of faith must be seen as somewhat rare. Spiritual weakening is more the norm. Perhaps through a short series of questions we can identify warning signs of spiritual weakening:  1. What was your spiritual life like before coming into hospice?  2. What were your spiritual disciplines beginning from your earliest recollections?  3. What are your spiritual disciplines now?  4. What are you reading for inspiration?  5. Are you attending a faith community on a regular basis?  6. Are there bitter, resentful, or angry feelings associated with your ministry career?  7. How do you release those types of feelings? Better, have you released those feelings?  8. How do you process what you see, hear, and feel when you visit hospice patients?  9. What do you do for fun? Do you exercise? Eat well? Socialize?  10.Are your family relationships healthy and growing?  11.How do you relate to God? Spiritual health and well-being does not come without the investment of time and what you do with that time. Find what works for you…reading, meditating on Sacred Texts, singing, changing the scenery for your spiritual disciplines, pray; be creative in how you approach your spiritual disciplines. Is there someone you call an accountability partner? Try that. You might find it helpful. Whatever you do, do not be a Lone Ranger. Too many pastors who come into hospice work cultivated the Lone Ranger style of living. In hospice Lone Rangers don’t last long. It’s ok to ask to talk to your Manager. He or she has been there, done that and can give you perspective. Bless you, Chaplain Colleagues, in your sacred work. Don’t do it alone and don’t neglect your spiritual life. Strong, healthy spirituality will support you in the great work we call hospice.

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