I sat next to an old man today as he rested on a special hospital chair that tilts to a bed for him to have cataract surgery. He needed a ride to the outpatient client and surely a ride home. I wanted to be his chauffeur. He is my friend, Ray. He is 3 weeks from being 85 years old. He was being sedated, but he was still aware. I was quiet.
“Are you still there?” Ray asked suddenly and quietly.
“Yes, I am still here,” I said. There was a pause.
“I love you,” he said.
God’s grace and unseen angels kept me from falling to the floor in tears. Ray is my friend, my brother in the Jesus family. We’ve shared some moments together over the last two and a half years. A bond has been forged.
“I love you, too, Ray,” I finally responded.
How do I explain this knitting of hearts? Why do I care for Ray and others in my parish who can’t hear so well, or can’t see without surgery or don’t, even can’t, rush in and out of their homes and get in and out of their cars quickly like “we” do?
Why do I believe that the holiest part of my day today was not teaching a seminary class, or preparing for Palm Sunday and Good Friday, or reading my Bible, or finishing up Shelby’s confirmation process, but sitting silently next to Ray as he waited his turn for a synthetic lens for his eye?
Why, after his surgery, did I feel proud when the intercom announced, “Would the family of Ray M. please come to recovery”? Family? Yes, family.
Jesus said, “Who are my mother and my brothers? Anyone who does the will of my Father is my mother, my sister, my brother.” New family.
What if silent waiting in love is more a pastor’s calling than giftedly extolling to whoever will listen what the Bible says? I think many USAmerican pastors love a book, yes, even a holy one, more than they love their people. I could be wrong. And I’ll tell you one thing: when a person out of the sky blue says from his or her heart, “I love you,” it is worth more than 10,000 obligatory “nice sermon, pastor.”
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