I did the really horrible and un-purpose-driven-approach to the Bible today and found myself opening up randomly to Ecclesiastes where my eyes were drawn to much scribble and underlining in the bottom middle of the page. There, the two verses quoted above leaped out at me and made me shut the book only seconds after opening it. It seems I've been hit with the idea of death a lot lately, as I've thought about how much society and the Church in general, seems to avoid death and dying and hurt and pain. If I were ever to be a Pastor, I think the one thing I'd be confident in doing now would be to visit the sick--especially the elderly--in hospitals. I know many people who become pastors probably dread this aspect of their ministry, but I think working at the hostpial has helped me see how much I would value this part of the pastor's responsibilities. When it comes to suffering alongside other people and being there for the elderly who feel alone and abandoned, I think most people--like myself--feel inadequate...like they have nothing to offer. But if you spend any great length of time in a hospital, you come to realize that when you come to be with someone who's sick or dying, "being with them" is the most important part of the visit.
This summer, towards the end of my time at the hospital, I started to do this with a few people who were sick and hurting on our floor and who were going to be there for at least weeks, and perhaps may end up dying there. One woman in particular--a nun, who's name escapes me at the moment (I just called her 'sister')--remembered a time where I stopped to chat with her while I was in the middle of mopping her room floor and the next day, proceeded to ask for me by name (she rememberd it, even though I had said it to her just once the day before). So then, every day for the last few days I was working at Borgess, I made a 5-10 minute stop by this dear sister's bedside and held her hand, and just talked with her. It was something I would've never thought to have done years ago, but now, after working there for a few years, you start to realize how so many people just want someone to listen to them for a few minutes, and that, for that moment, is all they really need. So there we are, Sister (who's in her early 80's) and I, holding hands, with a small crucifix dangling in between her fingers. And as we sat and she talked and told me of how she was doing, I couldn't help but watch the crucifix and think of how much this little icon meant to this frail, little child of God. I sat there, admiring her, respecting her and then came to feel the rewarding sense one gets when one gives rather than takes. I couldn't help but notice how far I was from the kind of faith she posessed, yet, I also couldn't help but think that it was okay to be where I'm at and to realize that it takes time and effort and patience and much love, to grow to love God the way she has. And for tonight, I think that is enough.