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Sometimes the sweetest moments in life happen when you leave yourself outside the door.
It was late November 2001, and all was quiet on the transplant unit floor. I knocked softly on the door of one of the rooms and tiptoed in. A man lay sleeping in the bed, and a woman, clothed in a long, dark grey dress with a matching head covering, sat on the settee near him. The woman looked up and beckoned, inviting me to step further into the room. She smiled and nodded her head several times as I began to introduce myself, and I quickly realized she did not speak my language. She was trying to understand who I was and why I was there, so I put my hands together as if I was praying. Suddenly, she burst into tears, jumped up and grabbed my hands, pulling me to sit down with her on the settee. My heart melted. I realized this was a Muslim family … in our country … just two months after 9/11.
As a hospital lay minister, I visited, prayed with and listened to critically ill people and their families. But before I stepped into a single patient’s room, I found a quiet place to be alone and to pray. I asked God to empty me, so I could fully serve Him and the patients I visited. My inspiration for doing this was from Philippians 2:7, when Christ ‘emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant.’ Without first laying all of my own cares, concerns, and to-do-lists at His feet, I would not be able to give all of myself to the patients and their needs. My prayer always ended with a request that God would guide me to someone needing His comfort that day … and this particular visit is one that will stay with me forever.
While I sat with ‘Mama’ on the settee, she kept gesturing toward the bathroom, and I heard sounds of movement within. Soon the door opened and out stepped a lovely young woman in the same long grey dress but with no head covering. Her long, thick, wavy, dark hair was still towel-dried damp from the shower she had just taken. After a brief conversation with Mama, she also began to weep and took both of my hands in hers. Smiling through her tears, she said in halting English, “Thank you for visiting us! We very much would like prayer for my father.”
As we moved to the bedside, I clasped the hands of these two precious women who were thousands of miles away from home. With a sudden pang, I realized how few times in my life I had had the chance to approach God in prayer with someone of a different faith. Many of us never venture outside of the comfort zone of our own church family. This ministry was certainly expanding my horizons. As my new friends waited in silence for me to begin, I desperately prayed lead me in this, Father, because only you know what this family needs to hear.
In His perfect faithfulness, an answer was immediate. And so I prayed. I prayed for healing, for comfort and for peace. I also lifted up a personal thanksgiving for this new friendship connection with two women from the other side of the world. I prayed slowly, waiting for the daughter to translate my words for her mother.
As we finished, the lovely young woman with the marvelous, unveiled head of dark hair clasped my hand tightly and looked straight into my eyes. “Thank you,” she said emotionally, “there is much anger in your country for our people. What happened was terrible for all of us. But I feel no anger from you. Thank you.”
Finally, this dear woman pressed a small box of chocolates into my hands, saying she could not eat it during their current Ramadan observance, and insisted that I must come and stay with them if I ever visited their beloved Saudi Arabia.
This visit lasted only ten or fifteen minutes, but every moment is eternally etched into my memory. I left that room knowing God had orchestrated a poignant glimpse into His Kingdom during this random, knock-on-the-door visit. I’m so glad I left myself outside that hospital room door, and I’m so glad I walked through that door with Jesus. In each of our daily encounters—whether random or expected—we have a choice to make. We can choose hatred or we can choose love. In that hospital room, we chose love.
“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” ~ Romans 14:19
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