Discovering balance in the ebbs and flows

This is a monthly post from Patrick Riecke, director, Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services.

I’m not much for yard work, landscaping or plants. But, from what I understand, you are supposed to use this little thing called a watering can. The can is supposed to be filled with water, which is then poured out purposefully and completely on the plants and flowers in need of the life-giving water. At least that’s what I have seen on TV.

One morning, when I came into work, I encountered our overnight chaplain. Usually, he’s halfway home by the time I get up, shower, tie my necktie, kiss my wife, yell at my boys to hurry up and shuttle them to school. But, while I was doing all that, he was in a room with a woman whose husband had just died. And while that last sentence might give you pause, it’s an everyday experience for my chaplains. They are wonderful at being a calming presence when people are having literally the worst moments of their entire lives. It’s what they do when they come to work each day. And the sanctity with which they do it brings me to tears as I write this.

And 9 times out of 10 our chaplains do it while maintaining their center, but then there is that 1 time out of 10. Those times that, for whatever reason, knock us off center for a moment, an hour, a day. And sometimes those moments stick with us forever—somewhere between a dream and a nightmare.

While I was eating my cereal that morning, my overnight chaplain (he is a candidate for sainthood not only for being a chaplain, but for being an overnight chaplain) was in a room where a woman was expressing her denial of her husband’s death in a very verbal way. She was saying what most of us think at those moments. My chaplain did everything he could do for this family.

Even though I walk through the shadow of death …

I’ve written previously about the loss of our first child through miscarriage, and I remind you here that God is present in our darkest moments. But there is something else I want to say, too.

Many of us live our lives often drained, fried or burned-out. And sometimes that leads us to the conclusion that we need to give less. And there is indeed a blessedness to saying “no’ and creating margin (I wrote about that a bit previously, as well), but often we are called to be poured out.

Jesus poured his life out, all the way to pouring his blood out.

Martin Luther King, Jr. poured his life out, all the way to pouring his blood out.

And, to some extent, so have many of the men and women who have meant anything to this world.

My chaplain poured himself out that night. They pour themselves out every shift.

We were created to be poured out.

We are like watering cans. We have no purpose unless we are poured out. Without being poured out, nothing around us comes to life. If we go too long without being poured out, we become stagnant and bitter.

But a watering can that has been poured out needs to then be refilled. After pouring himself out, the chaplain needed to go home. To sleep. To hug his family. To read. To pray. To be quiet. Maybe play some music. He needed to be refilled.

Friends, balance is a myth. The only way we find balance is in the ebb and flow of being poured out, then refilled. Poured out, then refilled.

What needs to be watered with your life? How will you refill your soul so that you can be poured out again tomorrow? We need you. We need you to pour your life out. So, we also need you to be refilled.

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