As a hospital chaplain, I am on-call for people, patients, families or staff in crises needing spiritual or pastoral care. “That’s what we do” as the current saying goes. I never know when the beeper is going to go off. At present I am on weekend call, three nights and days of waiting for the call, staying alert.
Yesterday I was in a men’s Bible study discussing Mark 13. My New International Bible translation has a chapter break saying, “The Day and Hour Unknown.” What is it talking about? The passage deals with the end times and the return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign over the earth. It says, Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come…Therefore keep watch…Watch!” (Mark 13:33,35,37). This passage tells us to be always ready and prepared to receive or go. What do we receive and where do we go? We are to receive Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives and go where He tells us to go. It is the time to “Preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1). Yes He tells us what to do. That time is now as Jesus has already come to earth and given His disciples commandments to go and preach and heal in His name. That admonition is for all believers, but particularly for me as a chaplain.
I never know when the call will come. It might be a trauma call for the Emergency Department, bringing in injuries from a car crash. It may be a heart attack. It may be families struggling with the new diagnosis of cancer for a loved one. It may be that same loved one afraid of the uncertainty and not knowing what to do or think. It often is a staff member a little overwhelmed by the numerous very ill patients and their demanding families wanting answers or service immediately. The calls come at all hours and no one knows the time or place.
Over 45 years of being on-call I have become more accustomed to having to be alert and ready all the time. The adrenaline no longer runs constantly. I have learned to regulate my body and mind. Yet, I am still alert and watchful. That is what Jesus tells us to do. So being on call has now become a time to seek Him even more and be thankful and rejoice for He is near to those who call upon Him. I was particularly thinking this way this morning on my pre-dawn bike ride. The beeper and cell phone on my hip reminded me that I was on call. The bright stars in the dark sky reminded me that God is sovereign and that nothing will come to me that is not first been sifted through His hands. So I praised Him in song as I rode on.