He really didn’t look very sick. He was wearing jogging shorts and a T-shirt. His arms and legs were tan against the white hospital sheets. But I knew the truth: he had a device implanted in his chest that was keeping him alive as he waited for a new heart.
Since I had seen him a couple times before, I knew he had a very “successful” life, made a lot of money, and bought a lot of things. But his heart failure made him reconsider everything. He questioned meaning and purpose. He pondered his relationships. He wondered about God.
I was excited to see him again, hoping that we would continue our conversation about these issues. That is one of the awesome things about being a chaplain: sometimes you get to witness transformation.
I stood in the doorway of his room. “You’re back! I haven’t seen you in month. Are you up for a visit?” I asked.
I pulled up my mask, adjusted my goggles and scrubbed my hands. He stared out the window so I pulled a chair up to the window side of the bed.
“How are things?”
“Good.” He looked right past me, not making eye contact. It was odd because he was so animated the last time we spoke. I decided to refresh his memory.
“The last time we talked you mentioned that you were reconsidering lots of things in your life. Where are you with that now?”
Silence. He scratched his chin. “Oh, yeah. Just thinking about things.”
I could feel my terrier persona taking over. I was not going to let go. “What kind of things?”
Now if I were him I would be tempted to answer, “Like how to get rid of you.” But instead he said, “Thing things.”
Okay, fine. On my last visit he wanted prayer so I said, “Would you me like to say a prayer before I go?”
“No, I’m good.”
You’re good? Pfft! I left thinking, “I wasted a perfectly good hand washing on him.”
Then a couple days later I came across the spiritual concept of being a “hollow bone.” This idea shows up in many spiritual traditions and it refers to emptying ourselves of ego and agenda and letting Spirit flow through us.
Being a hollow bone is about humility which I think we often misunderstand. It’s not about shaming ourselves or thinking less of ourselves. Humility is deeply knowing that our best work comes when Spirit streams through us. The secret is to be present, let go of our agenda and detach from the outcome.
Humility is about allowing something greater than ourselves to function. Allowing is not the same as inaction. Allowing is dropping our desire to micromanage, to control and force everything. Allowing makes room.
If I had been a hollow bone with him, it wouldn’t matter to me that he was staring out the window. I wouldn’t care that we were not having a deep conversation. I probably would have just sat quietly and stared out the window with him.
Flowing Spirit is powerful. When we can put aside our self-importance and allow Spirit to stream through us then we are transformed too. We become more forgiving, compassionate, kind and appreciative.
I hope I see him again and that when I do, I am a hollow bone. I hope my heart is open and strong. I hope that for him too.