When I first wanted to learn about spiritual care from my mentor, one of my first questions was the same inquiry every medical student asks when they rotate through our clinic. How do you do spiritual care? His response is always this: Spiritual care isn’t about what you DO. It’s about who you are.
This didn’t satisfy me. I wanted practical tools. Give me a technique. Tell me the nuts and bolts.
But here’s the problem with overemphasizing technique. The moment you emphasize an external technique, you risk overlooking the power of a moment-by-moment connection with God. A focus on the external “how to” can overshadow getting to someone’s heart. And to discover someone’s heart or motivation or why, you’ve got to have connection. And connection is something you do with the heart.
In Luke 6:45 we read, A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart.”
So the most important asset in spiritual care is our heart, more importantly the condition of our heart. When we are in good connection with God, ourselves, and the people around us, our heart becomes fertile. It produces fruit of peace, joy, love and truth that can bless our patients.
When the connection with God, ourselves or people is disrupted, then our heart cannot and will not provide spiritual care to others.
Here are 3 ways to protect your heart so you can be a blessing to your patients:
1. Stay Connected with God
- Reading Scripture. Can’t tell you how many times a Bible story provided a great illustration and allowed me to spiritually connect with a patient.
- Prayer. Prayer opens our heart to the God possibilities for the day. Even as I am interviewing a patient, I will often pray for wisdom in that moment.
- Spiritual material. I consume inspirational material in the form of sermons, podcasts, books, etc. Often, God uses what I have just heard in a sermon to meet the spiritual need of a patient.
2. Stay Connected with Family and Close Friends
- Relationships. Our loved ones have a tremendous impact on our ability to provide spiritual care. When we have strife with a loved one it becomes almost impossible to hear the voice of God. Relationship problems crowd out the spiritual needs of our patients.
3. Stay Connected to Yourself
When our rest is not adequate, stress overwhelming, and life not balanced our heart experiences turmoil. In order to protect ourselves from the turmoil, we suppress those negative emotions. We disassociate ourselves from what we’re feeling for the sake of survival. Understanding our own hearts allows us to stay connected to ourselves.
- Journaling. Dealing with patients who have fears, anxieties, failures, anger, grudges require authenticity from the medical provider. Taking a moment to reflect, even just 5-10 minutes a day in journaling, allows me to deal with any suppressed emotions.
- Living a balanced life. For me this means getting adequate sleep and exercise. When my life is balanced my capacity to deal with stress and provide spiritual care is big. When it becomes unbalanced, I go into survival mode and my mind becomes fixated on what I need to do to just make it through the day.
How do you protect your heart? How do you live life ensuring that your heart is ready to bless others at all time? Leave me a comment below.