Being like John Coffey


One of my greatest fears as a child was drowning. I hated rough housing in the swimming pool with my friends. Inevitably someone would always try to hold you under the water. The feeling of panic and helplessness is overwhelming when you are being held under the water by a 14 year old when you are just 10. As an adult and a Chaplain that feeling of being overwhelmed still happens. Instead of being held underwater, now the problems of ministry can rise up in life just like that swimming pool water. Lots of times I feel like I’m trapped in the bowels of the Titanic as the waters rise with nowhere to go. As a Chaplain one of my jobs is to listen. Most of the time I listen to people as they are experiencing life’s most difficult times. People die, get sick, and have relationship issues and addictions. People are not happy with their jobs and not happy with life and some days it seems like all these people rain in on me at once. Today just happened to be one of those days. In the Bible I read about Jesus being overwhelmed with people and their issues and for heaven’s sake He is God. My problem is that in my arrogance I think I can help everyone. I believe so strongly in the power of the Gospel and in Jesus’ ability to save lives. I believe that no one is beyond the saving grace of God. But some days I take on what isn’t mine. I make the John Coffey mistake. If you’ve seen the movie “The Green Mile” you know what I’m talking about. In the movie John who is a huge man, a giant of a man, on death row for the murder of two children. (By the way, he didn’t do it). John has an uncanny ability to heal people. But in his healing process he takes on the sickness of that person. He allows the trouble of that person to enter him and then he spews the illness out like a swarm of bees. But it takes its toll on big John. Finally after a while he can no longer spew out the evil and it ultimately overcomes him. Having empathy is a lot like that. I thank God for that gift. I thank Him for the ability to feel the pain of others. Sometimes when I meet with people I actually hurt physically when I talk to them. But it takes its toll on us. I’ve found that if I don’t let it go, if I don’t spew out the hurt of others it wears me down. Today I haven’t been spewing, that is until just a few minutes ago. Its funny how just a few minutes of confession and simple trust in God can ease the burden. My prayer tonight was simple. “Lord, I can’t do it all, it’s too much for me. I need You. Ease my load and help me to do what I can and not what You can. I give all the pain of today over to You. Thank you Lord!” If you are being held under, relief is just a simple prayer away. Won’t you join me in letting go of what is not ours. Be John Coffey, but remember to spew it out!

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