How We Might Respond to the Unexpected

Chaplain Leigh Ann Min, M.Div., BCC
Walker Baptist Medical Center

In April of 2016, our healthcare system hospitals will “commemorate the official alignment of the former Brookwood Medical Center and Baptist Health System with Tenet Healthcare.” This is an outward sign of an inward process as our hospital systems becomes “united in service and devotion” to our patients and community. Inwardly, our systems of operations are changing and change is difficult for most people.

Imagine the difficulty that Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and the other disciple experienced when they encountered the world-altering unexpected change found in The Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 1 through 18. The passage occurs after Jesus has been crucified and buried. Mary goes to visit Jesus’ grave and finds that the gravestone has been removed, the tomb is open, and his body is not there. I offer the following observations from this passage that we might model as we consider how to respond to the unexpected in our lives: (1) ask for help, (2) acknowledge the emotions, and (3) stay engaged in the process of understanding.

Ask for help. Mary did this. She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple to get their help and their point of view. She acknowledged our Christian calling to be in community with one another. We are not called to be alone, or be lone-rangers: we are called to be interdependent with others.

Acknowledge the emotions and our need to express our emotions differently. I notice in this passage that Mary feels free to express her tears while the others returned to their homes. In my work as a chaplain, I see all kinds of responses to the unexpected, the unexpected news of a terminal diagnosis, death, etc. There are so many ways to authentically process our emotions and we need to leave the space for those individual differences.

Stay engaged in the process of understanding. Notice the blessing Mary received, the blessing of the interaction with the holy. Because she chose to remain in the garden, she was the first to encounter the risen Christ. At first, she thought him to be the gardener. Then, Jesus called her by name and she recognized him. Then she understood that her Lord was indeed alive and she was comforted by his presence.

May each of us stay engaged in the process as we change together in our healthcare system, understanding that we need each other, we need to express ourselves in healthy ways, and accept ourselves as human beings with varying emotional responses to unexpected situations. May you be blessed by God’s presence as you encounter his word today.

 “1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:1-18 NRSV)

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