|Lift up your eyes and look at the fields...|
My heart is breaking for the people I see all around me that are lost – so lost – so hurting – so abandoned – so lonely – so shut down and despairing – so unloved.
I recently moved into Senior Housing, which meets my financial need for affordability while I am recuperating from a problem with my leg which rendered me unemployed. Until now, I have always worked at least one full-time job, sometimes a part-time one also. I have been so busy, rushing from one thing to another, I hardly had the time to hear what the Lord might want to say to me, although I always sought out different forms of ministry that I felt drawn to. I imagined myself ministering to beautiful little children, much in need of mothering – something I know from experience I can do. Or ministering to their moms – also beautiful and delightful to spend time with. Never, never, never, did I imagine myself ministering to the elderly and dying, abandoned all too often by their loved ones, and left alone to mark time until they die. Why would anyone want to go there?
This group makes me uncomfortable. I hear myself saying with Moses or Jonah – send someone else Lord – I can't do this. I am not proud of myself for feeling this way. I'm just being honest about the journey I find the Lord has taken me on. I would rather not go, thank you very much. I feel completely overwhelmed with the glaring needs of this population. I do not like what I see. It hurts so much to see the pain in their broken bodies and, even more, the emptiness in their eyes. They have been forgotten. Sometimes, knowingly, thrown away. “Placed” in a senior housing facility with others of their kind – these are the leper colonies of our day.
Seldom does anyone visit. Family members are busy with their lives, after all... And it's hard to find the time with everyone's busy schedules... And it's so hard to visit them. They are all bent over. They are crippled, struggling to put one foot in front of the other as they shuffle down the halls. They are blind, they are deaf, they are senile, they are in wheel chairs. Many of them never leave the safety of this little world to venture out where they might be seen by the rest of the world. Hidden away is probably a more accurate way to put it. Society doesn't want to see them. They are such painful reminders to the young and the able that life changes us. We get old, we get feeble, we are fragile human beings housed in broken and dying vessels. Life is unpredictable. What we see in these disabled and needy bodies could happen to any of us... Better hide them away. That's too frightening of a thought for most of us to bear for very long.
Since I came here, exactly one month ago, I have had the strong emerging conviction that this is where the Lord has planted me for ministry. I am recovering from an injury and will be up and about shortly, God willing. I could move on from here and I have thought, the sooner the better. But I cannot escape the ache in my heart for the people who are living here. Where did that come from? I don't even know these people – I literally just met them one month ago.
Today, I went down to the lobby to work on a puzzle - a good excuse to sit at a table and just meet some of the people who live here and pass through the lobby on their way to this or that. In less than an hour, I had three people come over to my table to tell me their story. They will talk to anyone, they are so desperately lonely. One lady told me her son had moved her here from New York, convincing her to pack up and move to be closer to him and his family. Since he moved her in two years ago, he has never visited again. Although she doesn't know this, I know this man. He is a very wealthy and well respected leader in the community. I was amazed at the sadness and heartbreak in her eyes. She is wounded and bleeding from the heart...
Joining her at my table was a little woman, wheelchair bound, afflicted from birth with cerebral palsy. She is only forty-eight years old, living in a world of people most of whom are twenty years older than she is or more.
When these two ladies left, I sat at the table, again pretending to be working on a puzzle, struggling to come to terms with what I had just encountered. Desperate loneliness. Heartbreaking abandonment by family that could do more to ease the burden of these people.
As I was lost in thought, a little woman, bent over and white haired, in her sixties, joined me at the table. She has some kind of a disability, I'm not sure what. But it has left her mentally impaired to be developmentally about the age of twelve or thirteen. As she sat down, she began to tell me her story of a recent “engagement” to a man in the building, equally mentally impaired, who had broken their engagement and turned on her in a way that she could not possibly understand. As she told me her story, she began to weep uncontrollably. I would like to say that I knew just what to say to her, to comfort her, to cheer her up. I did not. I felt completely lost. I listened to her. I let her cry. I told her the Lord had protected her. Then I went back to my apartment and cried for her. And for all the others I have already met here that are so very lost and wounded.
I bowed my head tonight before the Lord in prayer and asked Him what He wants of me. I already knew the answer. He is asking me to minister His love for these that are abandoned and dying without Him. I already knew. I so much need His power to obey Him in this call. I have been running from His voice for awhile now. He has placed the disabled bodies of His children in front of my face for some time now. I am aware tonight that I do not like this call. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like running. I can deeply relate to Jonah trying to flee from the call to go to Nineveh. It doesn't work. I know.
I am much in need of prayer for obedience tonight. That I will obey when I want to run. To love where I want to shut down. To see when I want to turn away. This is the difference between me and God. He sees the ugliness and doesn't turn away, He loves the unlovable, He embraces the abandoned, He never, ever gives up on us. That's no little difference. It is an unfathomable distance from where I am to where He is – without His grace...
“Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:34,35