4:45pm my phone rings… It's my wife.
"Strange" I think to myself, she doesn't usually call while she is at work.
"Luke, can you come to the hospital and talk with the family of a dying man? They are asking for a priest but they've all gone home for the night."
Now, I’m not a priest, preacher, pastor, nor do I fall under any religious title besides “Christian.” But that wasn’t an invitation I could turn down. Death is what makes people ask the most important questions in life and God’s servants must be willing to help people find the answers when they are looking.
After 45 minutes and several prayers, I arrived on an upper floor of the hospital unsure what I was going to say or what I was walking into. One of the nurses spoke briefly to the family before inviting me into the room.
I was nervous. I had been in a few situations like that before but it isn’t something I do regularly. I had no script to follow and no tried-and-true list of things that would work or wouldn’t work.
The man was certainly dying, rattle in his lungs gasping for air, yellow skin, eyes wide open, lips turning blue. Two women surrounded the bed with a third man sitting near the window. I smiled at them all and took in the scene as I approached the bedside. I wanted to say something but wasn’t sure what would fill the expectant silence.
“How are you today?”, I said.
Immediate regret… As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew it was a mistake, a bedside manner failure, the kind of thing they must have expected when a 28-year-old kid walked in instead of their priest.
The woman on the far side of the bed responded, “Well we are ok, but considering…” The sentence was cut short by implication as she panned her open palm in the direction of the bed indicating the obvious condition of her loved one. I tried to smile understandingly but it was painfully mixed with the realization of my blunder.
We stood at the bedside a little while longer, no one speaking. I wasn’t sure what they were expecting of me. I had planned to read the Bible but the man’s gasping was so loud it would have been difficult. I tried to start some conversations but it appeared that no one wanted to engage. So, after a few more tense moments, I offered to pray. When the final “amen” was said, I asked the family if there was anything else I could do for them to which they kindly said, “no.” I gave them another quick smile and walked out of the room.
I was disappointed in myself.
When God called Moses to deliver the people from Egypt, Moses resisted Him. Moses didn’t believe he was up to the job. He thought his lack of eloquence would ruin the mission and that God needed to find someone else. But the book of Exodus makes it clear that Moses’ incompetence was not a deciding factor to God. It was a non-issue. The 10 plagues were not fueled by the power of Moses’ eloquence. Pharaoh didn’t fear the sharpness of Moses’ tongue. He feared the power of the God who created the tongue of the incompetent servant so that in all things He would receive the glory!
Our view of God’s ability to work through our incompetence will change the way we serve.
It is the fear of our own incompetence that keeps Christians from taking many opportunities but if we wait until we are perfect vessels to serve the Lord, we will never serve Him.
Through how many human blunders was the plan of redemption woven?
If we believe that our competence is the source of our power in service to the Lord, our lives will amount to nothing. But if we trust that God’s power flows through our incompetence for the providential working out of His victory, our lives hold potential for impact far beyond our imagination.
I don’t regret going to the hospital. It was the right decision.
Yes, if I had to do it again I would change things. I might prepare some talking points or be more bold. But at the end of the day, I know that God can use my blundering to accomplish His end. I will probably never see the impact. But the Bible shows me how God works. He can use subtle things to change hearts, change the world, and change eternity.
So the next time an opportunity puts the fear of incompetence in your heart, trust in the competence of God to make your imperfect service a piece in His perfect plan!