There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

standing at Hannah’s bedside…

There’s an older woman in our church community—let’s call her Hannah—whom I was blessed (and I don’t use that word thoughtlessly here) to visit this morning in the hospital. She’d recently taken a tumble and broken her left arm and left hip. Despite the pain in both areas and the difficulty in the therapy for the hip, she was able to muster up the humor to explain that now she was balanced again: she’d broken the other hip a little over a year ago. The right hip had weighted her down. She was now no longer listing to starboard.

We exchanged kindnesses; I inquired about her progress and when the doctors felt they might release her. She confessed this fall had made her a little angry with God, but after a little reflection she had asked for His forgiveness, insisting that it wasn’t Him she was mad at. It was the simple circumstance of the fall, and the time it would take to get back on her feet, and all the discomfort in between that had drawn her ire—if the woman whose sweet spirit seemed so fundamental to her could indeed foment something like “ire.”


What beset her most was the waiting—having to wait until things were as back to normal as they could be—and what to do with that time, how to be useful.


And then she told me a little story about how she’d tried to do just that—be useful.


A young nurse had been taking care of her a few days prior. A pregnant nurse. She was, Hannah told me, such a slight woman that if you looked at her from behind you couldn’t tell she was pregnant. But after she and Hannah had established a minimum of rapport, Hannah came right out and asked her, “are you a Christian?” (Clearly, Hannah has never been through sensitivity training.)


Hannah perhaps represents a generation who, for all their interest in good manners, doesn’t assume that a religious question like Hannah’s was intrinsically offensive. She imported no animus into her question and therefore assumed her nurse wouldn’t import it either. If Hannah had been born closer to my generation, and she were a bettin’ woman, she might have wagered her nurse would adopt the popular angst when posed such questions; religion is a private affair we are told. Questions of that sort should be solicited, not posed. Had Hannah been as concerned with how a simple question might be received, she might’ve then opted to forgo the question all together.


Fortunately, she didn’t—a potentially awkward moment averted because Hannah didn’t know any better. And fortunately for both of them, her nurse took no umbrage at the unvarnished, unassuming question. The nurse, instead, answered quite honestly that she didn’t know if she were a Christian but conceded she was not a churchgoer. Again, another potentially awkward moment: How might Hannah respond to her nurse’s admission of being outside the Christian fold? How would I respond in that moment? Befuddled silence? Would I offer some sort of silly invitation I didn’t mean like, “well, would you like to go to church with me sometime?”—as if her reasons for not going could be distilled down into the mere fact that no one had invited her before. Or would I try to cover over even the slightest possibility of offense by cowering with some sort of silly “well, with your hours I’d want to sleep in too!”?


Hannah felt no awkwardness though. She responded simply with a simple request: could she, nonetheless, pray for the child growing inside?


Regardless of what that nurse might’ve thought of Christians or their Christianity, it may be hoped that Hannah’s request was interpreted as nothing less than a simple act of love. Whether that’s true, Hannah doesn’t know. But whatever the nurse thought, Hannah’s request was received with the love with which it was intended. The nurse welcomed the offer.


Hannah prayed for that baby, and, according to her, any time she mentioned Jesus’ name, the baby kicked, or leapt, or did a uterus-dive, or whatever.


That’s love.


And that’s evangelism in the real world.


I was thankful for my time with Hannah today.

1 Comment»

  Anne wrote @

Potentially awkward moments…..is that what keeps us in silence?

I like “Hannah’s” approach – to offer prayer. When my non-Christian friends ask me for guidance and/or help I tell them that I’m speaking through a Christian viewpoint, that I love them, and their concerns are in my prayers. Often I get a look of intrigue and a little door opens up for me to talk about how my faith has helped me in a situation analogous to theirs.

If you want awkward moments, try sharing your faith with young adults in Japan. It was that trip that convicted my heart and showed me that I have it easy over here. And that I don’t seize nearly enough opportunities.

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