Monday, June 6, 2016


I don't find it difficult to feel genuine compassion for my friends in assisted living residences or nursing facilities. I don't even find it difficult to pray for them or send them "I'm thinking of you" greeting cards. It isn't difficult to chat briefly on the phone with my friends in those residences, if they still have strength and cognitive ability to answer the phone. If they had email or texting availability, I'd gladly be in touch. They no longer do.

But I find it agonizing, painful, awkward, sticky, and extremely challenging to put my “boots on the ground” and go to see them. Lord, I'm embarrassed to confess my reluctance! It's an emotional thing. It drains me.

To actually carve out the time, to drive my car to those places, to sign in, to find my friend in her room, in her wheelchair, or in her bed is the hardest feat for me to maneuver. How pitiful my excuses! How shameful of me! I, who can still walk and drive, be freely out and about, still control my own life, do as I please, eat what I prepare after I've shopped for it, and plan my own day.

And this after Jesus plainly made the wonderful and mysterious connection that inasmuch as I do whatever for one of the least of these, I do it unto Him. Visiting the sick and those in prison are among the examples Jesus gave. My boots on the ground should take me willingly, eagerly to wherever my friends are “imprisoned” because of illness or weakness or age, often made “homeless” against their will because of family necessity and circumstances.

I have the unique opportunity to literally touch them for Jesus' sake and bring them love—His love and mine—and a little sunshine on what may be a mundane, routine, ho-hum, boring, unremarkable day for them. Most of their days are probably like that, nothing other to expect than to wait for pill time and pillow time. A warm touch and a hug and a hand gently held are a soothing balm that I'm privileged to offer them with joy—if I can get my boots on.

My friends are broken people who have suffered losses of various kinds: loss of health, loss of spouse, loss of their homes, loss of friends, loss of mobility, the onset of loneliness, and often the loss of memory. Age inevitably and regrettably carries with it for most of us, if we live long enough, a return to the weakness and helplessness of childhood, the need to be cared for, even to be fed, and hygiene attended to. That's a tremendous trauma to one's self-respect and privacy. The strong become frail, the healthy suffer pain and bodily disorder, those sharp in intellect become diminished, the wise often become foolish. Those who may have been widely-known for their achievements become unknown and virtually forgotten. Having been successful people in the public sphere or the marketplace, they have now become the marginalized of society.

Most important, I can become Jesus to my “homeless” friends many of whom no longer are able to gather with other believers for worship in their home church. They may be struggling in their faith and the embers of their spiritual life might be burning low. What they need and welcome from me is not a perfunctory, casual, once-in-a-blue-moon “visit,” which is a fleeting connection, but a “visitation,” a deeper quality connection where my friends feel free to express their felt needs and I can offer a prayer for them. This may not require lengthy times together; frequency might better fill the bill.

To excerpt a few lines from a poem by Nancy Johnson: “Praise to the Lord of the small broken things, Who sees the poor sparrow that no longer can take wing, Who loves the lame child, Who comforts their sorrows and washes their feet. Praise to the Lord of the faint and afraid, Who girds them with courage and gives them His aid. He pours out His spirit on vessels so weak. Praise to the Lord of the frail and the ill, who long to leave behind their tired frame and to Heaven fly, to never be sick and never to die. Praise Him, oh praise Him all you who live broken. Your frail, lisping praise God will never despise. He loves you, dear children, through mercy-filled eyes.”

And provide me, Lord, please, with sturdy boots so that I can eagerly, joyfully, walk You to my friends. Not fancy designer boots with fashionable heels that people will admire, but rather battle gear GI issue boots. I'm going out to the front lines.

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