Walking into the dark

Sometimes, you just have to move forward. When you’ve gotten all the information you can reasonably get and have chosen the most moral path you can, you may have no choice other than to move forward. Those were similar to the words of my father, who, when I brought home my first report card in private school - three F’s, two D’s and a C - asked me a simple question, “Did you try as hard as you could? If you did I don’t have a problem.” That semester I did try as best I could - thereafter my efforts might have been more debatable - but that semester they were wholehearted. His words have stayed with me since that day. I still, though, have lots of guilt about decisions. That guilt sometimes paralyzes my ability to make decisions.

Last fall, after nearly twelve years of working for Vitas Healthcare Corporation, the United States’ largest hospice provider, I began to get tired. Too many losses. It was taking longer and longer to recover after each loss. Still, I loved hospice care deeply. I felt that as long as I took care of myself and kept a clear eye on the things I value in life (my wife and son, and all of my family), I would be okay and could keep going in that career until I chose to draw my working life to a close.

Along the way, a dear friend told me about a job at the hospital where I did my clinical training as a chaplain. I thought it was a long shot, but threw my hat in the ring via my resume. I didn’t hear anything for the longest time. Then, around this time last year, I got the opportunity to interview. As I interviewed and the doors began to open, I became more and more fearful. I loved what I was doing. And the hospital I was going to was very different from anything I had done in nearly twelve years. Did I give up nearly six weeks of vacation, over a month off, for something that would require a great deal more work and would be something I hadn’t done for some years? “Life is really good now. I could die happily doing what I do. Why should I do something else? Why, indeed. Maybe it’s time to step out of that circle that you’ve made for yourself and grow a little bit.” Like Smeagol/Gollum in The Lord of the Rings I had those kinds of conversations and counter-conversations going through my head. The thought of leaving the team, job, hospice patients and people I had come to love paralyzed me.

You know how sometimes the smallest thing will reboot your mind into doing better thinking? Well, I had just such an occurrence. I was taking the trash into the garage very late in the evening. To save energy, having left the interior garage light on repeatedly through the nights, I had installed an infrared light sensor that automatically turned the light on and off when it sensed someone entering. At that time it was pretty new. As I walked into the garage, the light was off. Because of the position of the switch, I knew that I needed to walk forward in order to turn it on. It would take a couple of steps into the dark in order to be able to see the light come on.

How often is that true in our lives? I had every reason to believe it would be alright - I had installed a light that would do exactly what that light did. But, I had to trust and to move forward, until it came clear. So many of us teeter on the brink of making decisions that we know will take us in good directions but we don’t simply because we’re entering into someplace that’s dark. It’s been that way for me a few times in my life. Sometimes, either decision I would have made would have been right. But, I needed to move forward just to see what lay ahead.

Having been at my new hospital for half a year now, I’m grateful for that simple lesson in that dark garage - sometimes, you just have to walk forward into the dark before the light comes on. My decision to make my move has served me well and helped me find a renewed vision for my life. As I think back to that late evening epiphany, I feel that I need to share that simple truth - having the best information you can gather, having collected wise counsel, having taken a moral heart, if you feel the tug of a direction in which you ought to go, trust yourself and God to lead you in good directions. You have done the best you can.

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