The phone rang early Thursday morning while my “team” (Judy, my wife and Kelly, my aid) were hard at work getting me ready for the day. It was the Chaplain’s Department at the VA Hospital in Hampton: “Are you still interested in CPE? Are you available for an interview?”
CPE stands for Clinical Pastoral Education, which is a training program for almost all chaplain positions. It is usually an entry-level program requisite for employment. Although I have advanced degrees and over 30 years of experience in the Christian ministry, I lack the compulsory clinical experience necessary for appointment to the chaplaincy. Bottom line: If I want to be a chaplain. I have to have CPE.
It’s been well over 2 years since I began to pursue fulfillment of this requirement. Having been appointed to a paid internship we moved to Hampton, Virginia. In route, and during the move, God surprised us by extending my planned 2 week respite into over 6 weeks of hospital treatment for infection in my foot. Because I was not able to report, I was disqualified from that program. Other attempts to pursue local programs did not work out for various reasons. Honestly, I had given up on the idea of CPE and the chaplaincy.
And now the phone call – Is God opening the door for my ministry as a chaplain? Up until 2 weeks ago I thought he had closed it. Last week, after a favorable interview, I thought he was probably opening it. As the following week progressed I again began to wonder… But a phone call received late Friday influenced a more positive perspective.
So I honestly have no idea of what God is doing! When God gives me opportunities, I know that I must respond in obedience. When it seems like he’s opening a door, then I must walk through it. If he unexpectedly closes the door then I know he has his good and wise reasons for it. My role is to respond obediently and to seek to glorify him in all that I do. This is what God really wants.
CPE will require determine effort and sacrifice not only on my part, but also by my wife Judy and my family. It is an intensive 20 week course requiring over 5 hours of classroom instruction and 21 hours of clinical experience each week. Outside work at home will be required. Is it really worth it? I just turned 67 years of age. If I qualify for an extended internship, it will not begin until September 2016! Following this I will be qualified for a chaplaincy position. Humanly speaking, this seems to be futile. But God seems to be opening doors so if he does I will go through them.
The way I see it, God is giving me another opportunity to live out one of my favorite Scripture passages: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3: 5, 6 ESV)