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Called to WHAT?

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Philippians 2:14

When I worked for a volunteer fire department I use to say people should schedule their 911 calls at least two weeks in advance. Then we could be prepared. Oh, and I wouldn’t be taken by surprise by middle-of-the-night calls! More than a few groans came from my side of the bed when that pager went off—at 2 a.m. In fact, only by the grace of God did the pager escaped being destroyed, especially on the third or fourth call of the night. (We were a busy department!) I really didn’t want to get out of my warm bed to deal with anything, let alone anyone. I’m sure you know the feeling.

As a first responder—and a person of faith—I know I am called to a life of service. But let’s be real. When we are tired, we really don’t want to go help people. We are not the most compassionate. And the stress, desire to be somewhere else, and lack of self-control may make us impatient, suspicious, and prone to complain. Not a good attitude for a first responder, nor for a crisis-response chaplain.

As chaplains, we choose to follow this calling. And yes, it is a calling, as Chaplain Gina Hovis pointed out in her previous blog. We know this job is really all about God and others first. As people of faith we are called to lay down our lives for others, despite the very real danger of experiencing physical injury, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, or even PTSD for ourselves due to the nature of the calls we go on.

So, what is our attitude? What are the things that hold us back? These things you will need to evaluate yourself.

For me, I have found three main things that keep me from passionately pursuing this ministry. Yours may be similar, or quite different, but here are mine:

  1. Lack of sleep

  2. Not feeling well

  3. My devotion to clock time instead of God time

I know about these three things only after lots of prayer and reflection (which I suggest for all chaplains). When needs like sleep and health are not met, I have a hard time focusing on higher things, such as my own spiritual life and the ministry that flows from it. (Remember Maslow’s hierarchy?)

What do I need to do?

1. I need to embrace that interruptions are the job.

As a crisis-response chaplain, I give up the right to dictate when and where ministry will happen. I need to be prepared to be interrupted and learn to embrace it. Yes, prepared. For someone with my personality type, the more I feel prepared, the more I will find joy. Being over-prepared is a strategy I sometimes use to cope with interruptions.

2. I need to find joy in being displaced.

Sometimes I just need to be reminded of others who left comforts behind: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and even Jesus. Then I see that being asked to go someplace one doesn’t want to be is sometimes what it means to follow God. Reading scripture and letting scripture read my own heart reminds me of this.

3. I need to remember the One ultimately calling.

Finally, each time that pager goes off, I need to remember it is God Himself—not the pager, dispatcher, or officer—who is calling me out to go help that person. Somehow that has a way of cutting through my excuses or complaints.

Chaplain Chris M. Wade

Vice President

South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association

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