There’s something I can’t quite shake. Something happened Sunday morning that makes me want to cry, makes me hopeful, and terrifies me all at the same time. It happened fast, though it took a while to develop. It was a brief encounter, but had been building for years. Decades really.
When the second service is over, I usually force myself to smile and be nice (it’s what a pastor does, right?) so I can get to my car and exhale. At that point, the only thing standing between me and a long winter’s nap is a bread bowl of soup from Panera. I am a people person, but my people quotia goes from full to empty like large suburban’s gas gauge in the city. By noon on Sunday morning, I need to refill. For Matt, that’s a nap.
Let me be blunt: when the second service is over, I am done with people and need to replenish before I am “people ready” again.
Recently while shaking hands, hugging necks, and longingly looking over the shoulders of people toward my office I noticed a man walking toward me, waiting his turn in line to speak to the pastor. Honestly, he wasn’t really walking. More of a shuffle. Though in his late eighties, he could pass for early to mid-nineties. I know that’s not nice, but it’s true.
He wears a baseball cap before and after service. Usually one with an orange power “T” on it. I am guessing a baseball cap is part of his attire for everything but worship, sleep, and shower.
When the crowd thinned out a little and it was finally his turn, he handed me a piece of paper. As he did, he spoke. All I could hear the first time was the word “pray.” His voice was soft and weary. I read the paper and asked him to repeat what he said. He asked me to pray for his wife. The paper gave me his handwritten details of an upcoming procedure she would be having on her shoulder. I looked him in the eye, and promised to do so. He looked back with a look that said, “you better, or else.” Without saying it, he declared loud and clear: “I have been married to this woman longer than you have been alive. I love her with everything I am and all that I have. I’m looking to you to talk my God on her behalf so that everything goes fine and she is okay when the procedure is over. You got that, preacher?”
I’m no miracle-worker and I don’t think he thought so either. But as his pastor, he assumed I talked to God on a regular basis for the people He has called me to shepherd. This feeble old man was gathering everyone he could think of to go to God on behalf of his wife. I still haven’t been able to shake that 90 second encounter.
Lord willing, I will get by to check on them later today. I’m guessing she is handling it a lot better than he is. I imagine he didn’t sleep much. I have a pretty good feeling he gave the doctor and nurses a similar look he gave me. “You take care of her, or else.”
Here’s what I can’t shake.
First, I want to be the kind of pastor he thinks I am. He assumes I go to the Lord on behalf of the people I shepherd. Lord, remind me that this is primary.
Second, I want to be a man who believes in the power of prayer for his family.
Third, I want my wife to smile at me like his does at him. When they left the sanctuary Sunday, they were arm in arm. They aren’t young anymore, but with him by her side leading her, “she can laugh at the days to come.” I want to lead and love so that happens.
It’s “just” shoulder replacement surgery. I’ve prayed for much more intense procedures before and I guess you probably have too. But if you think about it, pray for Lois today. I know someone who would appreciate it. For this man, it’s the only thing that matters today. So go ahead and pray right now.