Don’t let “Self” Get in the Way of “Surrender”
A few days ago, I witnessed a beautiful expression of Christian community. The story began when a couple from our church family moved into an apartment building with special amenities for the disabled. Regina, the wife, had a number of neurological and muscular disorders that left her confined to a wheelchair. Her husband, Darren, held down a full-time job and cared for her faithfully.
Soon after the move, a single, retired nurse by the name of Patricia moved in next store to Regina and Darren. They befriended her and invited her to church. She attended, fell in love with our congregation, and sat with Darren and Regina every Sunday on the front row where she praised God with all of her being.
Then Patricia was told she was dying of cancer and had six months to live.
A few days later six months was revised to weeks.
Our church has begun hosting “Welcome Dinners” for guests who attend worship, and Patricia signed up to attend. Darren and Regina signed up as well since we encourage friends of guests to share with them at the dinner. Unfortunately, Regina became very ill and was in the hospital on the night of the dinner. Darren left the hospital, picked up Patricia and brought her to the meal. He went back to the hospital and returned to take Patricia home afterward.
Patricia was overwhelmed with the opportunity to share with other guests and a church Elder at the dinner, and she placed her membership with our congregation that night. When Darren came to take her home, she continued to thank him for bringing her and told all of us how blessed she felt.
Two days later Patricia passed away.
Two days after that Regina passed away.
Now these two Christian sisters are celebrating together in heaven.
I am left undone by the way God worked in these lives and the opportunity I had to see it all unfold before my eyes.
Had Regina and Darren ignored their neighbor, Patricia would have died without a church community. Her past would have been known to her family members, who live elsewhere. But her present, and her passion for the Lord as she slipped from this world would have been missed.
Sometimes, people ask me why praying for our “ones”, the people God gives us every day to love in His name, is so important. After all, shouldn’t we be more worried about strengthening our own faith or growing in our knowledge of God’s Word?
Certainly, we should keep growing.
But, I have come to believe focusing primarily on my personal growth, or expecting other people to keep feeding me is a gateway attitude to self-absorption. Yes, I need the accountability of God’s Word and His people, and I need to keep growing. Yet, sooner or later I have to stop holding others responsible for my growth in the Lord and look beyond myself to the harvest field God has put before me.
I’ll tell you what will make one accountable.
People like Patricia.
If she desired the Lord’s grace and the community of His people more than anything when she received her death sentence, I need to rethink my priorities.
People like Darren and Regina. If they were able to see beyond themselves with all of their struggles, I need to stop complaining about things that don’t go my way.
Strange. My mission to my “ones” keeps me growing most. I want to be strong for them. I want to be filled with God’s grace so it will spill over into their lives.
I want to surrender fully to the people God puts before me.
Self must give way.
Then I am hungry for more. Not so I can grow fat, but so I will have more to share with others.
Others like Patricia.
Thank you, Patricia and Regina. I’ll see you again someday.