My friend Ruth never learned how to drive, and her 85-year-old body had begun to slow her down from the extensive walking she had always previously enjoyed. Years ago, a friend of ours from our Sitka church passed away. No problem: I’d pick Ruth up when I drove by her house to attend the services. At the last minute, I received a call from friends at the funeral home that they expected a large turn-out and so had changed plans, requesting us to instead gather at a central parking lot and take a bus from there together. I jumped in my car, not wanting to miss that bus. Hmm, you guessed it: with that change in route, I forgot to pick up Ruth!
Ruth and I went out to lunch together a few days later, and I kept apologizing, feeling like the complete heel that I was, knowing there was no re-do on a funeral! Finally, she’d heard enough from me. Using a more direct tone of voice than I was used to hearing from her, Ruth said, “You know, Emily, when someone continues to apologize—even after they’ve been told it’s okay, it eventually becomes more about the person apologizing than the true apology.” I was completely taken aback, realized how right she was, and learned a valuable lesson that day.
Well, my (now 92-year-old) friend Ruth’s health is now poor. Her husband of 62 years, Frank, passed away last April, and she lives alone in what was their shared apartment. Ruth fell a few nights ago, shortly after her daughter went home after preparing her dinner. Ruth couldn’t move from the floor, and her phone was not working. Her daughter found her 18 hours later, still in the same place on the floor where she’d fallen. Ruth wouldn’t let her call an ambulance, and instead had her daughter help her to bed. An older daughter then came over and talked her into getting checked out at the hospital instead. Now, the decision has become whether she remains at home or moves to a care facility. I’ve been praying, and I’ve been reminiscing about the effect she has had on my life.
About 30 years ago, while still living in Delta Junction, I was involved in a crash that completely destroyed our Lake LA-4 amphibious plane. I know 100% that God was right there with my former husband and me; there were way too many “coincidences” for Him to not have had a hand in our protection that night. [I still shudder to recall it.] Anyway, perhaps I heard God’s voice that night, but whatever it was, I felt a very strong calling to get my butt back to church. However, that didn’t happen until we moved to Sitka about a year later, and my former husband decided to end our marriage of 18 years. That’s when I remembered my drive/the Lord’s strong message that I needed to get back to church.
Ruth and Frank LIVED a life centered around Christ. They both originally moved to Sitka as missionaries: Frank to teach history at Sheldon Jackson High School (later: College), which was started as a Presbyterian school primarily for rural Alaska natives, and Ruth to nurse patients at the tuberculosis unit at Mount Edgecumbe Public Health Service Hospital. Frank and Ruth served as role models for the spiritual life I needed. When I attended their Presbyterian Church to check it out, I realized that I knew—and already admired—most of the attendees there. I loved the church, the people, the message; I stayed and grew in my faith.
These last few days, I’ve been praying heartily for Ruth and her children, but I also heard the admonition she had given me about apologizing continually. I realized it might just apply to prayer, too. So, I tried out Ruth’s voice in my head saying, “You know, Emily, when someone continues to pray—even after they’ve been told it’s okay, it eventually becomes more about the person praying than the true prayer.” I seem to remember reading something like that.
In Matthew 6:1-2,7, we’re instructed, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others….7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
The Lord has Ruth’s care in His hands—I have no doubt about it! After my initial prayers, the person I began praying for was actually myself in my grief about potentially losing her. I need to forgive myself for letting Ruth down by not picking her up for our friend’s funeral all those years ago, for surely, she and the Lord forgave me long ago. I need to have confidence that the Lord has Ruth’s soul firmly in His grasp. I also need to allow His hand to comfort MY soul in the worry about Ruth’s care and my potential loss of her.
In our ChristCare group, we have been sharing passages using various Bible translations. You are probably well-acquainted with Mark 11:24 in NIV:
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
But then see how this translation from The Message looks at that same verse in a little bit different light:
22-25 Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you… That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything…”
I especially like the part about embracing this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. Maybe that’s also another way of saying, love the Lord your God with all your heart, and then trust in His care. No amount of fretting on my part will help Ruth, but I trust that God is actively working in Ruth’s life—as He has always been. Thank you, Lord, that you love us endlessly!
Your friend in Christ,