There are times in life and especially ministry when I have what some may call a “one track mind.” That is to suggest it becomes easy to focus upon the task at hand while avoiding other people, decisions, activities, etc. Some may seem shocked at my confession of ministry having “one track” elements, but it is quite true. Pastors become so absorbed in business as usual, getting the task completed, and moving on to other responsibilities. There are moments, however, when God has a way of bringing about unexpected intrusions. Nothing major, mind you, but enough to unsettle matters and divert personal attention elsewhere. In many cases, to more important matters of revelation.
I had one such experience in early February. On this particular day, some of the members of Free Union, along with the ministerial staff, delivered Valentine cards to each resident of a local nursing home. Upon our arrival at Greendale Forest, we paired off and began making our way from one room to the next in an effort to offer a glimmer of light, hope, and Christian love. While I am comfortable in most situations, I tend to prefer routine. Most of my visits to this home are filled with consistency: the same halls, residents, staff, etc. I was not sure what to expect on this occasion because I knew that in order to cover all of the residents I would have to enter “uncharted territory” and speak to people I may or may not know, people who may or may not respond so favorably.
Our associate pastor and I elected to make the deliveries to the first hall of residents. Talk about getting out of one’s personal comfort zone! Until this particular day I had never been the full length of the hallway, but looking back I am grateful for the opportunity and for the fact that we chose this set of rooms.
The first few rooms were met with limited success. First one and then the next resident were all out for the afternoon. Then I happened upon this one certain room. I gave a knock at the door and quietly entered taking note that the gentleman was asleep (or so I first thought). In actuality, he was in a comatose state and connected to a feeding tube. For a moment, my heart sank. There was no way really to connect with this man. There were no family members around with which to commune. It was just me and him. Some people may say, “Well if he is in such poor condition, there is little need to leave him a Valentine card.” As I stood there, I opened the envelope containing a card and placed it gently on the table next to his bed. Soon I found myself taking note of the bulletin board on the opposite side of his bed. It was filled with cards, notes, photos, and other mementos. Little things reminding me that this man, in spite of his condition, was still a fellow human being.
Each photo seemed to reflect significant people, places, and events from his past. I wondered for a few moments just who he was, what his story might be, and how he ended up in such a state. Some people would have just moved on and not been as “struck” as I found myself that afternoon. On this occasion, I just could not let the moment escape my grasp.
Those of you reading this reflection may be thinking, “Okay Kelley, you are obsessing a little too much!” Perhaps that is the case, but maybe not. Just maybe this was one of the intrusions of God’s grace into my life at such a time when I seemed busy, outside of my comfort zone, and eager to work through my stack of Valentine cards. Here was a man created in the image of God (just like me) who could not physically acknowledge my presence, offer a thank you for the card, smile, or do anything for himself. It was then and there that I remembered something from the book Life on Loan by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, “Grace takes place at the intersections of our lives.” Such a statement is true not only when it comes to our close friendships, family ties, or church community, but even in the stranger who just so happens to be confined to a bed in a local nursing home.
I arrived at the nursing home ready to be a blessing to other people and represent Christ to a people who otherwise may or may not experience a lot of joy throughout the year. But in this instance, God ended up ministering to me at the greatest point of my need at that particular time. I challenge each of you to look up and look out for the gentle nudges of God’s grace around you. You never know when or where God might show up, how God might reveal Godself, or how your life might change as a result of such encounters.