And then there were five

Yesterday, we lost one of our colleagues.

One of the six, our fellow CPE summer student, had to leave the program. Due to their schedule and some things that came up, they just weren’t able to invest in the program fully and finish it up. It was all quite sudden and I was surprised by it. I completely understand why they withdrew (if I was in their same shoes, I would have done the same). And, like them, I wouldn’t have known exactly what CPE required until I actually tried it. But, even with the rationalization and the understanding, I was still very sad about it. I like the person quite a bit. Everyone in the group seemed to connect with them in a different way. And, for quite awhile, yesterday afternoon, I just felt down.

Right after we learned of our fellow student’s withdraw, we participated in our regularly scheduled process group. Our overall supervisor is a leader in a type of program (I am forgetting the name of it) where people explore their feelings, in the moment, and no one is suppose to be left alone. I think one of the goals of this type of experience is to get into better touch with what we feel and what it means to explore and be in those feelings (be they emotional or physical). We’re not suppose to explain away things. Like my supervisor says, we all know how to explain things. Ever since we were little kids, we are always asked why we did something or “explain yourself young man/woman!” And for those of us in seminary, explaining is what we do. But exploring is different. Trying to feel and be with yourself in the moment is different. This system, when explained, can easily sound like some silly new agey feeling talk (“You’ve just got to get in touch with your feelings, man!”) but it really isn’t. In the context that it is used (training chaplains to walk with people in their pain and hurting), being able to explore our feelings allows us to help people explore theirs. Instead of explaining away what people are feeling, or trying to uncover the hidden reasons why someone feels that way, we’re instead being trained to walk with people and live with them in their moments. What are they feeling? How are their feelings limiting what they’re able to do? How are their spiritual resources? What gives them meaning, hope, and connection in this time of need? Where are they at?

I like to uncover things. I like to ask questions and see if something that is unsaid is really the driving force for another’s emotions. I like to create thoughts and explore those thoughts. But I struggle with meeting people at their moment of feeling. That’s basically my current major learning goal for the rest of the summer (including all the other ones that I’ve mentioned!). Let’s see if I can crack this teapot during the next seven weeks.