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Yesterday, before I left for my pastoral care day at the hospital, I started grumbling to my husband; fatigued and bearing a list of things that needed to get done, I was looking for an excuse not to go. Of course he saw right through me and gave me this challenge:
They’ll be one person there today, whom you’ll least expect to be the one the Lord wants to encourage—
Look for him and text me later.
Off I went…still grumbling of course, while recalling a portion of the Rule of St Benedict which says that grumbling and faint heartedness are a failure to remember the goodness of God. I prayed, ‘Lord forgive me and
…prepare my heart and body for the battle of holy obedience to Your instructions. What is not possible to me by nature, let me ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.’
—The Rule of St Benedict, Prologue 40-41
Halfway through the morning rounds, I was in the moment, but still plagued with the mental background noise of all I needed to get done….until I entered a room on the fourth floor.
The patient by the window on my list was asleep, so I prayed softly by his bedside and turned to leave, smiling as I passed his roommate. But, before I made it to the door’s threshold, he spewed a litany of complaints with fervor, frustration and an assortment of colorful expletives.
Nobody gives a bleep about me in this bleeping place.
Pointing to his sleeping roommate, he continued,
Every bleepin night they come in…nurses, doctors– giving him all kinds of attention.
Me? I gotta go to the bathroom and have to ring for half an hour before I see a bleepin face.
Who the bleep is he that he gets all the help?
On it went for a few more sentences, during which time I was asking the Holy Spirit to help me know what to say and do.
In the last year I’ve only walked out on one patient and that was the one who saw my Benedictine cross and screamed at the top of her lungs for me to get out of her room …
That’s a story for another day.
I clarified with this gentleman that I was not a nurse, but from pastoral care and that it was my job to pray with patients…
Then I knelt close to him and said;
Have you asked God for help?
Suddenly, his cantankerous clamor stopped, and after taking a moment to think– out it came,
Once, I called on God to help me. It was a long time ago; I met Him in a foxhole in Vietnam.
My drill Sargent and my mom both told me, that if I had faith, I’d come out alive…
But if I ever lost faith, I’d never come home.
People’s stories are absolutely amazing and time, after time, after time…they literally take my breath away.
I saw tears fall down the cheeks of this veteran’s hardened, sun lined, face. Putting my hand on his shoulder, I trusted the Holy Spirit’s direction and asked,
And where’s your faith today?
God brought you out of a foxhole once when you called on Him…now, here you are, again in a foxhole of sorts,
perhaps not a violent one…but maybe one just as life threatening.
Normally at this point, I might offer a prayer, but again I felt the Holy Spirit directing me to ask him if he’d like to pray.
Filled with deep passion, slowly and deliberatly articulating every word, this was his prayer:
Lord Jesus, I thank you so much for dying on the cross for me. You offered Yourself up on that bloody cross to save me.
No body has a better friend than one who is willing to die for him.
Forgive me for forgetting how you saved me..and love me.
Help me to have faith in You again.
I tell you …I will never forget this dear veteran’s prayer as long as I live.
As soon as I left the hospital, I pulled out my phone to text my husband.
You were right…There was one patient I was sent to today, but as usual he wound up encouraging me..
Tell you about it tonight …
It has to do with foxholes.