Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Chapel Epiphany

"And Elisha prayed, and said,
Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see..."
2 Kings 6:17
(KJV)

One of my favorite things to collect is quotes.
Words of wisdom,
spewed from the lips of those who have learned profound lessons.
It takes living life to really absorb deep understanding.
Experience,
whether our own or someone else's,
 has always been and will always be...
the very best teacher.
So, if I can be taught by someone who has already walked through the dark,
lived through the experience,
faced personal challenges head on, 
gleaned understanding along the way,
then cared enough to share the wisdom they've harvested,
I am eager to learn all I can from the quotes they leave behind.
Knowing they've been there...
walked through similar valleys...
endured and outlasted their trials....
increases their credibility to me.

One quote says this,
"Learn from others' mistakes;
you don't live long enough to make them all yourself."

We can learn from the mistakes of others,
we can learn from their victories,
and we can learn from our differences.

But, we must first have an open mind.

We must first be willing to be taught.


Have you ever met someone who could not be taught?
Who thought they knew it all and had nothing left to learn?
Who, no matter what subject matter came up in a conversation,
had already been there, done that, and had nothing more to learn from it?
Who, though surrounded by others wiser they they,
felt they had already attained the deepest depths of learning
and could glean no benefit from listening to anyone else?
Who automatically dismissed the advice or wisdom of another,
just because that person was different?

I feel sure someone is coming to your mind!  :)
Some "know-it-all" type who perceives their self as superior...
and complete...
and in need of no additional knowledge or understanding.

One of the main things we need to do in life
is to foster and maintain a teachable spirit.
A humble mind.
A hunger for wisdom, 
and a willingness to glean understanding from others 
who have lived longer than us,
or have walked the Christian path for more years than we have.

Sometimes we close the gate of wisdom that is opened to us,
because it does not look like it opens to a path of learning.
It looks unfamiliar...
different from what we are used to...
so, we close our minds...
and never glean the lesson God is so graciously trying to teach.
We pre-judge a situation by what we see,
or a person because they are different from us,
and we never realize that we just missed a golden opportunity...
to learn.

One of the most desirable qualities people seek in a leader or someone to admire is humility.
Someone who is willing to be led.
Not around by the nose by just anyone who comes along.
But by those who are wiser than they.
Someone who has an open mind that is laced with a discerning spirit...
to quickly detect deception, falsehood, and bad advice...
yet be able to identify and glean from the wisdom of those
who bring beneficial unique life experiences to the table.

When we refuse to be taught,
we cease to grow.
We stifle our own maturity.
We shut out the very things that would make us better.

I have learned life lessons from some very unlikely sources.
This has caused me to stay alert for learning opportunities.
If we don't stay teachable,
we will miss them...
overlook them....
let them pass us by.




She didn't know I was there...
in that lonely, hospital chapel.
I had found it after searching for a place to hide...
to be alone with God...
to pray.
My heart was heavy.
Dad had been in the operating room for way too long.
They said it was a simple procedure...
an angioplasty...
to clear the blockages in the arteries of his heart.
They did it every day.
No problem.
No worries.
It wouldn't take long.
So, Mom and I had stood and watched them wheel him in
to the operating room,
I told him I loved him,
and we turned to join Kevin and the others in the waiting room.
That had been hours ago.
I began to panic.
Why didn't they come out and tell us something?
What was taking so long?
I knew in my heart something wasn't right.
Dad was in trouble.
It hadn't been as simple as they said...
not this time.
My anxiety level began to rise...
until it was over the top.
I felt if I didn't get out of there, I would come unglued...
or scream.

I walked the isolated hall, until I found the stained-glass door
right next to the sign that said, "Chapel".

How thankful I am for those little sanctuaries!
I have sought them out in more hospitals than I can remember...
time after time...
during Mom and Dad's various hospital stays.

They have been a comfort to me.
They provide a quiet place,
a serene haven...
in the midst of the foreboding, unsettling hospital atmosphere.

How thoughtful of hospital planners and architects to include them!
May they always do so.

I opened the chapel door and stepped inside.
It was quiet....
and dimly lit.
I didn't see her, as I dropped to my knees in front of the back pew.
I began to cry and earnestly pray for Dad.
Isaiah 41:21 says,
"Produce your cause, saith the Lord;
bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob."

I was doing just that....
producing and bringing forth....
reminding God of all of the cause and reasons
we needed Dad....
begging Him to bring him through...
to spare his life...
to give us more time with him.

As I prayed...
in the stillness of the little chapel...
I began to hear a noise.
A soft clicking of sorts....every now and then.
What was it?
Wasn't I alone?
Quietly, I peered over the pew behind my position on my knees,
to the direction from which the sound was coming...
towards the front of the chapel.

Then, I spotted her.
She was elderly...
seated in front of the chapel.
Her face held an anguished expression,
as if she were deeply distraught...
and worried.

I watched her.
It was as if she were completely unaware of my presence.
She must not have heard me open and close the chapel door...
just moments before.
She seemed so engrossed...
so deep in thought...
so troubled.

Where was the noise coming from?
It was definitely her, but what was she doing?
Then I saw the movement of her hands.
In them, she was holding tight...
to a set of rosary beads....
praying...
to God....
from what seemed to be the depths of her soul.
Her face was upturned...
as if she were searching for Him...
with all her heart.

I had never seen anyone use rosary beads before.
I had heard of them, but didn't know their purpose.


It hit me as I sat there...
and watched her...
that we were both doing our utmost...
in the only way each of us knew how...
to communicate....
with the God of Heaven.

We were both hurting.
We shared common emotion...
of worry...
and heartache...
and grief.

And we shared faith...
in the God of impossibilities.
The God of all comfort.
The God Who had sustained both of us...
to that moment.
Who had walked with us every mile thus far,
and Whom we sought in this new uncharted territory...
on this unsteady, uncertain path...
we now walked.

I had a desire to talk to her.
To reach out to her.
To connect with her...
somehow.

The opportunity never arose.
We never spoke.
There was no audible conversation.
I don't know if she ever realized anyone else was in the room.
Perhaps she was hard of hearing.
I tend to think she was so completely caught up...
that she didn't notice me.

I watched her....
just a little while longer.
I sensed the pain in her heart....
the sincerity of her worship....
the fervency of her prayer.

Such a profound teacher of wisdom...unbeknownst to her.
Such an unexpected life lesson....for me.
I'm glad I didn't reject it...
because it wasn't scheduled or planned....
or packaged the way I was used to or would expect.

I finished praying,
and softly turned to go....
careful not to interrupt her reverie.
As I stepped out into the cold, unfeeling hospital corridor,
I realized I had just experienced a life-changing epiphany.
I had just been taught a lesson.
It was one of those profound moments when you realize
God has just spoken to you...
and opened your eyes...
and your heart.

I should never judge...
or dismiss another...
just because we are different.

Who am I anyway?

I shouldn't be so quick to condemn...
other people.
I shouldn't look down on someone...
just because we don't do things the same way.

Who am I to determine God's mind?
Who am I to know what is in another's heart?

My approach and the elderly woman's approach...
to Almighty God...
may have been worlds apart.
Possibly, neither of us understood the other's method.
But, we both had the same desire...
the same intent of heart....
the same hoped-for end result.

I felt enlightened...
and lighter...
and less judgmental....
as I reached the waiting room.
The doctor soon came out and told us there had been complications.
They were serious.
While administering the angioplasty procedure,
an artery had burst,
and Dad had to be rushed into emergency quadruple bypass surgery.
They would let us know as soon as they could.

The hours dragged slowly by.
Is there anything much worse than sitting in an operating waiting room...
dreading the worst?

God answered the many prayers prayed for Dad that day.
He brought him through.
He left him with us for another eight years.

I have often wondered who the woman was concerned for that day.
I trust God sent a happy ending to her worry.
I know that whatever she faced, He was faithful to her...
to see her through.

She taught me so much,
though she never said a word.
I never expected to learn a lesson that day.
Especially, from the person who taught it.
It has been over 20 years,
and I have never forgotten her....
or the wisdom I gleaned.

She never even knew.

What lessons are you and I teaching...unawares?

Since that encounter, I hope I have been more loving,
more understanding,
more kind,
more empathetic....
to those who don't do things exactly as I do.
I hope I have been more gentle...
and less critical.

Haven't we all been looked down upon by others who were different from us?
Do we really want to inflict that kind of condemnation...
that hurt...
that burden...
 on someone else?

Are we in the place of God?

Who are we anyway????

God is love.
He will always be.
He never loses control.
He never misses a tear.
He never overlooks a hurt.
He was a Man of sorrow, acquainted with grief...
and it moves Him with compassion...
every time He sees a heart break.
He hears every prayer...
prayed to Him...
from a sincere, reverent soul.

He is not impressed by our outward exterior.
With God, it is a heart matter.

I Samuel 16:7 says,
"Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature....
for the Lord seeth not as man seeth;
for man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart."

Aren't you glad He does?

If only we would look beyond what our eyes can see...
and try to do the same.

We just might learn something.

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