Nursing Home Prayer

Recently I’ve been going back through some old writings that I haven’t shared on this blog yet.  This one struck a profound chord with me this evening.
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What kind of thoughts do you have at midnight when you can’t sleep because you inadvertently napped the previous afternoon? My midnight meanderings are often random at best and distracted as much as anything else, but– as of right now I am stuck somewhere between reflection and affection, contemplation and nostalgia. The last month has been strange for me.

Generally, I am not the type of person that is prone to an abundance of sentiment in my emotional diet. I am not without compassion, and have a deep love for people, I just don’t always choose to thrust it into the limelight and parade it around for the world like a bleeding heart liberal during election year.

A visit to the nursing home the week before Jamie’s grandmother passed dealt a heavy blow to that emotional fortitude. If you have ever witnessed a loved one in a nursing home you may well understand. It is not easy to see someone you love and admire lying in such a state. Though I never knew her during her years as the mighty minister of the gospel so many had to come to cherish, she was still important to me as a part of my family–and the sight of her condition elicited an emotion which surprised me. I was angry.

It wasn’t her sickly unresponsive condition or the state of the facility caring for her which affronted me. Rather, it was the general overall situation which assaulted my worldview. Like many before me who have been confronted by something that seems unnecessarily tragic I took my raw emotion to the only destination which could not be affected by my temperament, God.

I remember several things very distinctly about that moment. Jamie stood just in front of me by the bed side stroking her grandmother’s hair and telling her how much she loved her. I stood just behind her with one arm around my bride and one hand on her grandmother’s arm praying. It probably wasn’t the kind of prayer that you would hear from behind a pulpit or read about in very many of those “How to Pray Effectively and Make Sure God Hears You” type of books, but it was real, it was honest, and I’m just as certain that He heard me then as I am that He has heard any other prayer I’ve ever prayed in my life.

We can’t have been in that room for more than ten minutes and I spent the better part of it praying, but I remember the general unfolding of my prayer, if not the words– and more importantly what I felt when we left the room some minutes later. I preceded to tell God, in a hushed inaudible voice, how mad I was at Him for letting such a seemingly miserable situation befall such a faithful servant. I went on to recount to Him how He had a responsibility to make it better and I continued to reiterate my point. In hindsight I realize I must have felt a bit like Jacob as He wrestled with God, except instead of trying to elicit a blessing I really just needed some peace to smooth over my lack of understanding in the face of perceived injustice. As I stood there, simultaneously praying my angry prayer and attempting to comfort my weeping wife, something happened.

I am not so haughty or pompous as to sit here and write that I completely understand what took place or the theological implications for it, but I do know that God immediately began to minister to both Jamie and myself. Like any loving father He listened to my (albeit silent) prayer and began to comfort me, all the while showing me truth and correcting some of my misconceptions about His nature. Jamie, He comforted as the hurting granddaughter who would dearly miss her cherished grandmother. Myself, He approached with what I could only describe as a counter accusation. “Don’t you trust me? Don’t you think I know what is happening?”

As we drove away from the nursing home that day I remember feeling several mixed emotions. For one, I was still a little angry, although by this point my anger was not really pointed at God. Secondly, I remember feeling a bit like Job must have felt when He puffed up and went after God with the only thing He still had left, pride. Did God judge me or punish me? No. He corrected me like the loving Father He is.

He showed me that we do not suffer, we do not endure tragedy, hardship, or injustice alone; because He who was without sin became man–suffered tragedy, hardship and injustice alone on the cross so that we might know Him and make Him known.

As a man in the ministry, everything always seems to boil down to one simple verse for me.

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” – Job 13: 15a KJV

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