Once again, in my prayers for adventure and stretching outside my comfort zone, I find myself in an unfamiliar place with unknown challenges and obstacles waiting to be overcome. I’ve volunteered for this, but now I’m hesitant and unsure of what I’m getting into. What do I need to do? How do I help my kids understand what is both new to them and a little scary? And most of all, what if she doesn’t remember me??
I sign in at the front desk, walk down the hall and around the corner, spot the room I’m looking for. I read the name on the placard by the door, just to be sure I’m in the right place and then I knock. There’s no answer but the door is cracked so I step inside and motion for the kids to follow me. I see her and I smile, but I have to move closer to her before she can see I am there. She turns and smiles, recognition lighting up her face, as she says, “Aw Jenny, I’m so glad you came to see me.”
I sit in the chair beside her and take her hand. The children settle in nearby – Gracie at my elbow, Ross in another chair, Amber and Georgia hiding behind us still unsure of the whole situation. We are here to visit my friend Karen, the once vivacious, outspoken pediatric cancer nurse who is now reduced to this shell lying in a bed completely dependent on the nurses of the rehab home to care for her every need. Karen, who showed no fear or trepidation in sharing Jesus with her patients and their families, often praying for and with them as they battled cancer, now struggling to speak with slow, slurred speech as a result of her own brain cancer.
I sit and stroke her hand, taking in the changes in her since I saw her last more than a year ago, unsure of what to say or do. She looks at me again and I smile. I introduce her to the children and I’m happy to see she remembers Ross and Gracie. Slowly Amber and Georgia peek out from behind chairs and begin to warm up to her. And as the children begin to relax, so do I. I tell her how pretty it is outside today and she asks for something to drink. I find a cup of water with a straw on her bedside table and hold it for her to sip. And then it slips into my mind, the words that tell me what to do here, and I know He’s with me again…here in the deep end of the pool.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or without clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25:34-40
For the next hour and a half, we sat and visited with Karen. I rubbed her stomach where it ached and scratched her back where it itched, helped her eat her dinner and wiped her mouth when she was finished. I brushed her hair with my fingers and told her I liked her mohawk, noticing the c-shaped scar above her ear from her surgery, her battle scar. She asked me how old the children were and afterwards I teased her that she and I were both 25 – “I’m not so sure how that works,” she said, “since I’m about 40 years older than you are!” Shhhh…it’ll be our little secret, Karen. She talked about missing her mom, her dad and her husband – all deceased. She asked me three times to tell Michael she needed to buy a new car and wanted him to pick it out for her – “Definitely not a Volkswagon…it can be a Honda, since he’s good with those, but make sure he knows it doesn’t have to be a convertible”.
All the while, I thought of my Jesus – who lived his life without a home, scorned and rejected by his own hometown, on his knees washing dirt and stink from his disciples’ feet, healing the sick, raising the dead, restoring leporous skin and demonized bodies. In all times and in all circumstances, Jesus stopped and served those who were around them. He met their greatest needs, both physically and spiritually. He lived the mission – to make disciples and make His name known – without complaint when days were long, or hesitation when crowds were hostile, or apology when his message was hard to hear. And in thinking of Jesus, it is easy to serve Him as I serve Karen, to love her because He loves me.
On the drive home, I pray and ask for more…more boldness in proclaiming the gospel, more heart to serve, more opportunities to be in the deep end of the pool…because in essence what I really want is more of Jesus, and I know I can find him there among the hungry and thirsty, the naked and needy, the sick and imprisoned. But first, I gotta get in the water, plunge deep into this challenge to live life loud for him, leave the safety of the wall and depend completely on him to keep me from sinking. I’m ready to swim…are you?
As always, your comments make my day. Feel free to share your own adventures so I can cheer you on!