This morning a friend and I went to visit someone from our church family who suffered a stroke that affected the left side of her body. As we walked into her room, she was fixing her hair. We began to chat while the hair fluffing continued for several minutes. We talked about her progress, her many visitors, and various and sundry other things while her hair grew fluffier and fluffier. Her energy seemed high and, as the visit drew to a close, we paused to pray before leaving. As I opened my eyes and the amens were verbalized, I saw tears in her eyes. She began to preach. She said, “The Lord has been present this whole time and has revealed some things to me.
“You know when you get sucker punched like this with a stroke, you begin to think that your productive days are probably over. I won’t be able to function on my own anymore. What I have started, I probably won’t get to finish. I probably won’t get to start any new things at all. Then God brought to mind a man named Paul who was working like crazy to establish God’s church when he was imprisoned.
“And I imagine that Paul’s thoughts might have been like mine, that he felt sucker punched too. He was doing his best to carry out the tasks he had been given, following God’s instructions to the best of his ability. Then boom, he’s in jail. Paul must have thought his productive days were over, that he wouldn’t get to finish the things he started or start anything new.”
My friend described a possible conversation between Paul and God as the prison locks clanked into place.
Paul: “But God, I need out so I can finish my work. I need to share the gospel with these people. I can’t do that in here.”
God: “Paul, everybody hits a bump in the road. Stop your pity party and listen up. I have some important work for you to do right here. Your work would have affected many people. But the work I have for you will influence thousands upon thousands of people for more years than you can imagine.”
With her face lifted up, eyes closed and talking about 400 words per minute, she continued to preach about possible conversations between God and others who hit bumps in the road including John the Baptist. Yes, she said his beheading was just a bump in the road.
By the end of her sermon, I had a few tears in my eyes. This stroke victim fully believes that her greatest work for God is ahead of her despite this bump in the road. I bow at this woman’s faith and and repent of my whining. Without romanticizing the effects of stroke or any other hardship, she is preparing herself to be in the presence of the Lord and to listen to what he wants her to do. She shared that these ideas would be a great theme for the next women’s retreat as well, and I’m pretty sure she plans to be the speaker. She should be; her sermon was a great one.
My reaction to her this morning was so different than normal when people say, “God has a plan for you,” or “Everything happens for a reason,” or the many other things people say in a sincere effort to comfort. To me, her sermon didn’t in any way dismiss people’s pain or attempt to provide a clichéd quick fix. She was simply saying, “I’m ready for God to use me in a very different way, and I have no idea what that will be.” That seems like an appropriate prayer for all of us as we fluff up our hair.