My wife was scheduled for surgery. I dropped her off at the hospital entrance and parked the car. I was alone.
One of my joys with the Charlotte Rescue Mission is being a pastor to the people who financially support us. If I hear of a donor who is scheduled for surgery, I offer to be there before the nurse takes them. It’s our way of saying, “We love you and we care about you.”
That day, I walked to the lobby, expecting to be alone with my wife until the nurse took her back, but as I walked in, there was Jay. He lives in South Carolina. The hospital is in Cabarrus County. This was not around the corner from him. This was a sacrifice. He had to get up early and fight the rush hour traffic to be there on time. We registered and sat down with him. We only had a few minutes before the nurse called for my wife. Jay prayed with us and we went to the surgical area.
While my wife was in surgery, our friend, Chet, joined me. He and his wife were staying with us for a few days to help my wife recover. He had been a missionary in South America and was bitten by a spider only 45 days after arriving in a foreign country. This resulted in the deterioration of his aorta. He needed surgery, which required 17 pints of blood. No one knew him. Would he die because the blood would not be donated? While in the hospital, his wife called him to the window. Outside the hospital was a line of people from his denomination who came from several South American countries. They donated their blood so his life could be saved. As he shared the story, his lips quivered. His eyes filled with tears as he told how people he didn’t know demonstrated their love for him. As a minister, he had served so many people. Now he was being served.
Why is it so easy to take care of others but hard to accept other people’s love for us? Why was it so hard for me to accept Jay’s expression of love to me? Normally, I am the one who is there when people find themselves in the hospital. I minister to them, I pray with them. But this day, everything was turned around. Just like Chet was on the receiving end of a tangible expression of love, I was on the receiving end of love that had to fight the traffic on I-77 and I-85 to arrive at the hospital before I got there.
Why is it so hard to accept God’s love? Is it easier to go to the Charlotte Rescue Mission and serve a meal and say to someone, “God bless you?” Is it easier to go on a mission trip to Haiti and build schools for orphans who have nothing, while we hug them and tell them about God’s love?
However, there comes that moment when God stops our world. He pauses us to stop serving. He asks us to take a break for a moment. He puts his hands around us giving us the biggest bear hug we ever received and says, “I love you.” Just like my friend, Chet, watched people give their blood so he could live, I believe Jesus gave His blood so I can have forgiveness of my sins.
Perhaps it’s our feelings of being unworthy. No one is worthy of God’s love. That’s the puzzle of it. It’s also the wonder of it. God offers redemption and we just have to say, “Thank you.”
I’ll be back soon. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the president/CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Visit www.charlotterescue mission.org for details.