She was walking, one tiny step at a time, up the hospital hallway when we spotted her. She looked surprisingly radiant, leaning on a walker in her pink pajamas and pink robe. She has been in the hospital for a week, her 83 year old body fighting off pneumonia while doctors and nurses prick and poke and do all they can to make her well again. Chad and I were excited to see her, our friend Carolyn who always has a smile and an encouraging word. It was good to find her up and going, however slowly, and we walked alongside her, matching her shuffling steps as she told us all about her hospital stay.
She hates being in the hospital, of course. She can’t wait to get to her home, which is a showplace for her artistic gifts and abilities. The rooms are filled with painted furniture, graceful roses cascading down dresser fronts, birds’ nests meticulously placed with a steady artist’s hand on desktops. She surrounds herself with beauty that seems to emerge from the beautiful inside of her. It only makes sense that one with such a lovely spirit would be gifted with the talent to create lovely things.
We had almost made back to her room when she realized, for the first time all week, that another of our church members was in the room right next door to her. She was astounded. Her next door neighbor was a dear lady who has already been in the hospital for almost a month, trying to recover from an injury. Carolyn immediately made her way into her friend’s room, apologizing in her still raspy voice for not coming in sooner. She stood there with her walker and offered sympathy. She offered sweet words of truth about God’s purposes and ways. She, who was still struggling a bit to catch her breath, she whose arms bore the marks of multiple IVs, she who may still have weeks of coughing and recovery and doctors ahead of her, said with all authority that God knows what He’s doing. And then, as she saw the tears spilling over her friend’s cheeks, Carolyn prayed.
She prayed with all the power of Heaven. She who needs healing herself prayed for a hurting friend. She easily could have considered ministry in this moment someone else’s responsibility. I feel sure I would have. But, she couldn’t NOT call on her Savior, because she knows He is the only help and the only hope. It was the most natural thing in the world for the beauty of Christ to come pouring out of her in ragged breaths as she cried out to God on her friend’s behalf. It convicted me so deeply, how easily I’m distracted, how unnatural it is for me to try to minister to people sometimes, how quickly I can get so focused on myself and my own circumstances, how dull and uninspired my prayers are most of the time. It was as if God let me spy on this precious moment to remind me that this is what Christ-likeness looks like. It is the beauty of Jesus overflowing on a disappointing and sad world. It is soothing, like a balm. It is light in the darkest times. It is beautiful.
We finally made it back to Carolyn’s room, and she seemed oddly out of place there, in that plain space. There was nothing beautiful about that room except for her, bubbling over with stories about her family and her long, long week of being terribly sick. Even in this sterile setting she laughed easily. She grinned her way through breathing treatments and she encouraged me. I didn’t want to leave the plain little room where my bright and beautiful friend is spending yet another night. I sat there with her until it was time to pick up the kids from school. As I walked away, I thanked God for the glimpse of His glory, right there in room 139, in a woman who often wonders if she is of much use to Him at her age. I am grateful.