2.17.2004

I went to visit a lot of people last week. I came back from a pastors' conference the week before with a new passion for the spiritual calling of visitation, among other things. So often I am reduced to hand-holding and listening to the latest prognosis of my parishioners. I ask them how they are doing, when they will leave the hospital, how I can pray for them, etc. This, I must confess, is boring and takes an excruciating amount of energy, to boot.

Last week I was reminded of my role in spiritual conversation, in directing people toward God. I was reminded that I need to view every conversation I have with others as an opportunity to steer them toward God, to give them the nudge they may need to call out to God and receive his presence. It's seems embarrassingly simply when I write it down, like I should have known this all along. Maybe I did deep down somewhere. Maybe the "real me" had just gotten crusted over with other expectations that dulled the shine of my true calling.

At any rate I went to see Bill last week. Bill's been in a nursing home for several years now, after a stroke and the inability of his wife to properly care for him any longer. Bill and his wife Kathy used to be one of the easiest couples to visit, full of conversation and laughter. But Bill's condition has deteriorated somewhat and conversation with him can sometimes be slow. When I am with him, too often, I feel as though I do no good and he just needs time to rest, as much as anything.

Late last week, however, Kathy called me and asked if I'd go see Bill. I worked out my schedule, God gave me the sermon rather quickly, and I set up an appointment. I was bowled over by this visit. I had been praying all week long, with each person I went to see, that God will open a doorway for me to embrace my newly rediscovered role as a spiritual director of sorts. God had answered my prayer at nearly every turn. And when I sat down with Bill the conversation seemed again and again, to center around "the Lord" and around how badly Bill wished he could still do some things for the Lord. He was very emotional, which I understand happens from time to time. But this was not just emotion. This was something deep down in his bones, something he remembered and longed for, something I could pray for and about which I could converse. Our time together was rich and full of God, like never before, in all honesty. And I've been visiting Bill for nearly eight years.

I was able to be someone who spoke about God with Bill and to Bill. I was able to fulfill a role I hadn't in quite a while. I pray that more and more of my visits will be the same, full of hope, purpose and God.

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