top of page

Clinical Pastoral Education as a Tumbler

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

A reflection two months into a CPE residency.

About a month ago, a few weeks into my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) residency, I had the opportunity to work with one of the per diem chaplains. We both worked the morning schedule. Suddenly, I realized that I was sharing so much with him that it made me pause and wonder why. At that moment I started saying that some people, like this per diem chaplain, have chaplain faces.

Then, one day, out of the blue, a man starts talking to me in a grocery store about how frustrated he was with the pandemic. I told my husband that maybe I was beginning to develop a chaplain face, too. In another event, another stranger came to me and share part of his life story unexpectedly, too.

I have been reflecting on these experiences. I have had encounters with patients who, as soon as they see me, they start speaking and sharing deeply. Some of them also pause and tell me "I don't know why I'm telling you all this". I am hoping though, that something is indeed changing about me and how others perceive me that feels inviting and safe.

One day, I saw a Tiktok video of a person tumbling rocks. I knew nothing about this process. Rocks are placed in tumblers and left to tumble for hours or days and weeks, replicating the same process that happens in nature in beaches and rivers. The constant motion and the rubbing of rocks against each other polishes them and, by the end of the process, you end up with polished, smooth, and shiny rocks.

Image by Ogutier from Pixabay

In the hospital, in the Pastoral Care department, I am surrounded by humans who are soft and compassionate. They carry themselves this way all the time. So it occurred to me that, perhaps, this clinical pastoral education environment is like being in a tumbler where our sharp and rough edges smooth out so we can go into patients' rooms and be perceived as safe and caring. Of course, the becoming isn't easy, we are constantly witnessing and holding space for suffering and, often times, our mistakes are perhaps like the friction of rocks that breaks a sharp edge little by little.

Now, the tumbling isn't enough to smooth out sharp edges, because tumbling can also create sharp and rough edges, what makes a difference is the environment. A rock falling off a mountain will not reach the ground polished, but the constant tumbling of rocks in the river or in a tumbler, does have this effect.

In any case, I feel grateful to be part of this group of humans who have learned to be constantly set into motion to keep growing, and learning. I am grateful for the tumbling I am experiencing now that, hopefully, will help me become the human and chaplain I strive to be.

Here's a short video of rock tumbling

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page