Several years ago I found myself as a new pastor in a situation in which I was just learning how to be comfortable. I had been called to the hospital to visit Rose who had just had a massive stroke. I was filled with all sorts of anxieties about saying the right thing and being a comfort and support to a family that would soon be saying goodbye to this lovely woman. As I entered her room her doctor was just getting ready to leave and she informed me that she didn’t have long and that she would not be able to hear me or to speak. The stroke had taken her ability to form words and it had completely paralyzed half of her body while slowly shutting down her internal organs.
Her best friend Gladys was with her, by her side, as she had been since they were in grade school together. I listened to this no nonsense woman process her grief and let the doctor’s news sink in. And then I asked her if we could pray with Rose. And so we joined hands we each other and this lovely woman and we prayed together. We finished our time of prayer by praying the Lord’s prayer and wouldn’t you know it, Rose decided to chime in. Her eyes were closed and half of her face was paralyzed but she was praying the prayer. It wasn’t just in whispers, it wasn’t a trick of the ears, we weren’t mistaken, she was praying out loud with us.
Now, if you speak with other pastors you would surely hear stories that echo this one. When you have been marked with the sign of the cross and you have these words of love and belonging etched into your being, they tend to hold us up and draw us out when we find ourselves in these thin places. These thin places are locales and times where the distance between heaven and earth collapse and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine. They are like manna for the journey.
When we told the doctor what had happened she simply dismissed it and said that it was impossible. But Gladys and I know exactly what we experienced. And we held onto that moment less than a week later when we buried her. The final word from her mouth was a resounding, “Amen,” as though her life had been a prayer that now rested in God.
My fervent hope is that we all have the opportunity to experience this kind of faith, faith that is so much a part of our very being that when everything else is taken away from us, who we are in Christ remains. This season of Lent is an invitation to remember your baptism. Remember who you are in Christ. Remember that while the world may seem to be spinning out of control and we feel as though we are being caught up in it, Christ is our anchor. The storm will pass, the waves will calm. We don’t allow the storm to change us. Remember who you are in Christ. Let faith define you, and may you become more and more each day the people that God is creating you to be.