Oh, To Hear Those Words!
Do you ever have days when the good that you do appears pointless and oh, so tiresome? A day when cooking yet another meal for your family that will be eaten and quickly forgotten seems bothersome? A day when devoting all of your time and energy to raising children who press ever-forward in their willful ways exhausts you to your core? A day when caring for an elderly parent who tries your patience at every turn leaves you seriously contemplating any other alternative? A day when volunteering your time in ministry appears fruitless? A day when your feelings have you convinced that everyone else must have a better, happier, more fruitful life than you? The first half of Wednesday was that type of day for me, and yet in God's great mercy and love, He allowed me a glimpse into His perspective of my life through the eyes and words of a frail, sick woman named Lillian, whom I had the privilege of visiting later that afternoon in the nursing home. Perhaps my retelling the story will bless and encourage you with God's perspective of your efforts to be faithful in whatever ways He has called you at this time and place in your life.
All day I had been struggling with the thought patterns and lies of the flesh, and I knew it. Extra time spent with the Lord encouraged me for a while, but my hormones were definitely getting the upper-hand. Oh, how I would have loved to just crawl back into bed after lunch and forget all responsibilities. However, I faced fulfilling my weekly commitment to visit patients in the local nursing home. I'm ashamed to admit it, but every week I dread going. Questions like, "Why did I ever get myself into this?", and "What will I do or say this time?" cycled through my thoughts for the umpteenth time. Do you ever feel that way about your obligations or am I the only reluctant servant? Well, off I went anyway, praying that I might "abide in Christ" and "bear much fruit" (John 15:5). In spite of my hesitations, God always manages to make me exceedingly glad I went, and this time would prove no different.
After signing in and donning my volunteer badge, I decided to stop and visit with Bud, an aged veteran whose military cap seems to have embedded itself in his scalp from constant wear. Without fail, he can always be found in his wheel chair at the corner of two intersecting hallways where he claims the prime real-estate amongst the many patients who also line the hallways in hopes that someone passing by will notice them. Although normally, I say hi and pass by, God had been impressing on me that I needed to spend some time with him. In spite of Bud's far-off, glazed look, when I took the out-stretched hand offered to any passer-by and asked him if I could join him for a few minutes, he responded softly that he would like that. After a few minutes of haltingly spoken chit-chat, I asked him if he would like me to sing "Amazing Grace" to him. With his faltering but pleasant voice, the two of us, lost in our own private worship, entertained all those around with the treasured words that spoke of grace and hope in the "God who sees" us (Genesis 16:13). My earlier discouragements and hesitations were forgotten by the end of the hymn.
With a kiss on my hand like I was a princess and tears in his eyes as he choked out that he loved me, I said good-bye and moved on to visit Laurie. At 94 years of age, the tiny but hearty widow with white hair always askew to one side could be found in her room in a wheelchair watching TV. Although she never remembers me from week to week, last week I had had the incredible privilege of being a part of the miracle of leading her to a childlike faith in Jesus Christ, and so I looked forward to visiting with my new sister in Christ. After a repetition of the same menial topics of conversation that we have every week, I asked her if she would like for me to read the story of Easter to her from the Bible. Much like one would do with a child who was new to the Bible; I slowly read through and explained to her the details of Jesus' time in the garden, his arrest, his brutal treatment ending in death, and his final resurrection from the dead. Throughout she responded with alertness and expressions that mirrored her compassionate reactions to Jesus' suffering and finally joy at hearing about his victory over death. After praying with her, she held my hand and with shining eyes thanked me and blessed me repeatedly. I departed feeling greatly blessed indeed.
Then it was time to see Lillian in the women's dementia ward where she can always be found in the central meeting room where the nurses corral as many of those whose minds are slipping away to more easily keep track of and entertain them. Today, however, I discovered that Lillian had been sick in bed for two days and unable to join the others. She was sound asleep in a contorted position that revealed her gaunt frame and made me want to cry. Because she alone always remembered me, I knew that I must wake her or she would be disappointed that she missed my visit. Out of the disorientation of sleep she stirred and took my hand. She told me that she'd been sick for two days and was sorry she had missed my visit on Wednesday. When I told her that today was Wednesday, and she hadn't missed me, she falteringly pulled my fingers to her lips and kissed each one. Our conversation progressed in the tedious manner of one stricken with a disease that steals away the ability to formulate words and sentences without long pauses and patient encouragement on the part of the listener. Eventually, I told her that I had to go because I had one more person who waited for my visit. She again took my hand and with great mental struggle said, "When you...see...God,...he's...going to say..." Here there was an especially long pause as she struggled with great difficulty to recall the desired words. "'Good...job.'" Fighting back tears, I said, "Do you mean that one day when I get to heaven, God will say, 'Well done good and faithful servant."? With a smile and a look that indicated recognition and relief, she responded, "Yes."
Oh, how tiresome life can be and how weary doing good can make us, but Lillian's words bring into perspective why it's all worth it--to one day stand before our Lord and Savior and hear him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant! ...Come and share your master’s happiness!" (Matthew 25:23). Join me, dear Christian, in pressing on in the strength that God provides to be faithful servants at whatever task to which He call us. To God be the glory!