December 21, 2010

Helpless In Hospitals

There are a number of things that come with the vocation of being a pastor that I think I am good at. There are also a number of things that come with the vocation of being pastor that I am not good at. I am not very good at hospital visits. As a child hospitals frightened me. As an adult I am not frightened by them but I still rather not be in them.

I suspect that is a common sentiment. After all who really wants to spent a lot of time in hospitals other than health care workers. As it turns out it doesn't matter whether I like being in them or not. Part of being a pastor means you find yourself in places you rather not be; and for me hospitals top the list.

I've been to the IWK a local children's hospital twice this week. A little boy from my mother-in-law's church was hit by a car and I went to see him and his family. He is alright as far as getting hit by a car goes. He's in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) but he's stable and he is expected to recover.

I really don't know what to say in hospitals; to people who have been rocked by tragedy. This tragedy made me feel even less sure of what to say. The little boy who was hurt is only a few months older than my son, and he sounds like he is just as happy, just as active and just as wonderful as my son. Piece of me really felt 'there but by the grace of God go I' as I talked with the family. The rest of me was just lost for words.

Part of my problem is that so much of what is said in hospital rooms seems so empty to me. How helpful are comments like 'everything happens for a reason', or 'everything will be fine' or 'God makes everything work for good', or 'one day you'll see that something good will come from this'?

So I listened. I listened to a mother almost drowning in guilt for letting her son get hurt. I listened to a grandmother trying to comfort her daughter while she is feeling just as scared and guilty. I listened to a great-grandmother talk about her great-grandson while trying to fight back tears.

I want to fix this. I really do. Maybe that comes from being a pastor, maybe it comes from being a man. But I really wanted to say something or do something that would make everything all better. Of course I can't. Other than listening and praying there virtually is nothing that I can do.

But I find myself wondering today if as Christians we wouldn't all do better with a little more listening and a lot more praying. Yes we need to take action on any number of social justice issues. And yes the platitude 'I'll pray for you' should never leave anyones lips when they really mean 'I'm done talking about this with you'. But truth be told there are many, many problems that we simply can't do anything other than listen and pray.

Try to spend sometime today listening to someone, really listening. Hear their hurt, hear their pain, hear their troubles and take them in to prayer. If they tell you something that you can act on great, act away . Yet chances are they will tell you a great deal of things that you simply can't do anything about. So pray, pray with all your heart that God will do something. It's all we can do, it's the least we can do, and when we are asking God to step in there is no more we can do.

Listen well, pray hard.

This is my Son a few months ago, if he were hurt I wouldn't stop praying