I had one of those “a-ha” moments with a shut-in yesterday. There is a lady who has been homebound for about four years now. Her mind is fairly sharp still, but her body is weak and frail. For a long time she was being cared for in her home by someone that was not very good for her. Her family fired that lady and hired a different one, who since has really helped Helen be more comfortable and healthy.
This pious old woman has always had a phrase that she repeats about five times every time I see her: “It’s a great life, don’t weaken.” I never really understood this and just smiled and said, “Uh-huh.” The other day, though, she rephrased it. I asked her how she was doing and she said, “It’s a great life, until you get weak.” Then it hit me. “It’s a great life, don’t weaken” means, “Life is great when you are strong and able, but it loses its value when you are weak and frail.” Maybe to you smarter folks this is a no-brainer, but it just dawned on me yesterday what she meant by it. So, when she said this other version of it, I said, “Hmm. I guess the challenge for Christians is to say: “Life is good, in spite of my weakness.” I have never seen this dear lady not have a witty comeback until then. It’s like, I just took the wind out of her sails. I then spoke at length with her about how this is the cross that God has laid on her at this time in her life, and how in this she can identify with Christ. The Christian can say: “Life is good” even in the face of weakness and misery because God himself is the giver of life, and he has called it good, but also because her life has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. She thinks that her life has little or no value because she cannot “do” anything. Hopefully I was able to help her see that the value of life is not viewed by Christians in terms of what we can or cannot do, but in terms of who gives the life and sanctifies it.
It was a nice visit, as it always is. I read to her the sermon I had written for that evening’s midweek service. I gave her the body and blood of Christ, sang the parts of the Divine Service to (and with) her, and went home refreshed. Moments like those remind me why I am a pastor.