We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28
One of the highlights of my week is going to the Valley Inn for a worship service which our church leads. Koko plays the old hymns while Karen and I greet the residents. Some arrive in wheelchairs (electric and manual), most come into the garden room with walkers. All of us are in various stages of memory and hearing loss, so we talk loudly and repeat ourselves quite often.
A few residents are blind and cannot read the song books, so they sing with joy from memory, “Oh what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear…O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Some are unable to speak but they smile at me from a place of deep love and knowing. Their unflinching faith in God’s Grace inspires me every week.
After our opening song and prayer, I say a few words. “This might seem pretty obvious to most of you, but it usually takes us a lifetime to realize that we are not in control.” A few residents knowingly chuckle.
Inez, who is legally blind, quips, “God’s in control Pastor Craig.”
“I know.” “So, what’s the deal Pastor Craig?” Inez asks.
“I like to be in charge Inez.” “Well, you’re not.”
Mary, whose eyes sparkle like a diamond, jumps in. “When I was a kid, my dad always told me. ‘Mary you are not in charge. The sooner you learn that the better off you’ll be.’”
“You had a wise father, Mary.”
“I know, but I didn’t believe him. It’s taken me to this point in my life to realize I’m not in charge. Look at me. I’m stuck in this wheelchair.” Mary smiles and laughs while throwing her hands up in the air.
Maxie Dunham writes, “My biggest problem in my basic approach to life is an unwillingness to give up control. Can you identify with that?”
“Yeah, until we get old, we think we call the shots. We’re full of ourselves,” says Mary. “Mary, you’re on a roll. You should give the sermon today.” “No thanks Pastor Craig, go ahead. You’re in charge.”
“As Mary was saying, one of the gifts of growing old, hopefully, is we become more mature. We realize we don’t control our kids, grandkids, or even our spouses. We have limited control over our bodies. They start to fall apart.”
Mary pipes up again. “I hate being in this wheelchair. I hate not being able to walk anymore. And I hate that I can’t swim in the lakes and hike in the mountains like I used to.”
“That is hard Mary,” I say.
“You know what though, Pastor Craig?” “What?”
“My kids walk in the mountains now, and they swim in the lakes I took them to when they were kids. They tell me all about it, and they show me pictures.” “So,” Mary forms a slight smile, “a part of me is still walking in the mountains, crossing creeks, and swimming in the lakes.”
“I agree, Mary.” “Every time they go to the hills, a part of me goes with them.” Mary laughs.
“We call that incarnation. Jesus said, ‘I give you, my spirit.’ He gives us his peace, his wisdom, his patience, his love. A part of him is alive in us. You know, I still try to control our adult children. It is so frustrating.”
“Let go and let God Pastor Craig,” Inez says gently but firmly. “I know.”
“Do you know when I think we fully let everything go and trust God? When we are dying? I have seen it so many times. We let go of our anger, our resentments, our bad feelings…and we just get filled up with love. Death is very sad, but it can be very beautiful at the same time.”
The room full of wheelchair bound, the blind, the hard of hearing, and the aging elders became very quiet. Silence.
Gladys, an immigrant from Ecuador, says in broken English, “I guess we have something to look forward to.” Everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
We are not in control, but we can trust “that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). As the verse in “The Hymn of Promise” says, “In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”
When we let go, we enter the divine flow. Thank you Mary, Inez, Gladys, and the beautiful residents of the Valley Inn for reminding me of this. Amen.
Note: I asked my sisters in faith if I could write about this to the best of my memory. They said sure and Inez said, “Go for it, Pastor Craig.” Thank you.
Blessings and peace,