Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 40:1-5.
I cannot sleep in hospitals. I had 27 opportunities to sleep in a hospital during my Clinical Pastoral Education unit, but I was never successful. So rather than restlessly turn over in a broken recliner in the chaplain’s office wishing for sleep that would not come, I walked the halls.
One night as I walked I heard soft sobs coming from a room. I gently knocked on the door, said who I was, and asked if I could enter. The sobs stifled and a weak “yes” answered from the far bed. I walked in and found a woman, not much older than me, curled in the fetal position on her bed. She apologized if her sobs had disturbed me from my work, to which I assured her they had not. She went onto explain that she has Addison’s disease and was in the hospital due to her present disease crisis. Her whole body ached in unrelenting pain. She was greatly fatigued, but could not sleep. She was hungry, but could not keep food in her stomach. And so she wept.
I remember looking at her…wanting to fix the situation…wanting to fix her…and then realizing that I could do neither. I was not a medical professional. And I was not (am not) God. There was nothing about her or her condition that I could fix.
What then could I do? And God answered me – “Be Sarah. Be.”
So I be’d with her.
She cried and I held her hand. She spoke and I answered. She was silent and I chose to listen to her evening breath rather than fill the room with my words.
My shift ended just before breakfast. I thanked her for the invitation to be in her room. She thanked me for comforting her. Our mutual gratitude was the benediction we shared.
As I reflect on God’s command to “Comfort my people,” I am again reminded that to comfort is first to be and not to fix. Some things cannot be fixed – in the present moment or at all. Other things can be fixed – but it is not always me (you/us) that can (or should) fix them.
Be-ing is a gift and ability that God gives each of us. We are created for relationship – with God and with one another. We are created for community and care. We are created to give and receive comfort.
We can do/fix for others without truly knowing them or taking time to know them. Comfort, however, cannot be done at a distance. We have to get close to people; we have to invite people to be close to us. And in getting close to people, we may have to step into a place of powerlessness, realizing there are things we cannot do and receive God’s invitation to beautifully be.
Prayer: “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appears. O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thy justice here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel.”*
*”O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 211.