It was a busy morning, and I was running back and forth between passing meds and checking on babies, but I couldn’t stop thinking about one of my patients, the one sitting alone in the maternity ward.
My heart ached for her, as if I carried a part of her sadness just in knowing what had happened that morning. The maternity is a place where people spend the happiest and the saddest days of theirs lives, and hers was the latter. I imagined her sitting behind the curtain, hearing babies crying when she learned just yesterday that hers was gone. I listened to fetal heart tones for the lady in labor just on the other side of her curtain, and I prayed for her whose baby’s heart no longer beat, that she wouldn’t hear and feel the sting of loss all over again.
All morning as I took care of her, I prayed for a direct opportunity to show her love and speak comforting words to her, words about Jesus. And I watched expectantly for the right moment.
I turned the corner and saw that the nurse’s aide had pulled up a chair and was just sitting with her, and I felt my heart melt, so I decided to do the same.
I had a speech prepared in my mind. I was going to tell her how sorry I was for her loss, how she was not alone in difficult times, and how Jesus loves her and wants her to know him even in her sadness.
But as I sat down in my chair and looked at her, she seemed entirely at peace. I was actually shocked. You would have never known this 22 year old woman just delivered a stillborn child. I have no idea what kind of suffering she has endured in her life or what happened to make her react this unexpected way, but I definitely knew in the moment that my well thought-out speech with tears in my own eyes was not what she needed.
So I listened to the still small voice that seemed to tell me, not now. I ended up not giving my speech; I hardly even spoke at all. But my intention stayed that same – to show her Jesus’ love, which came in the form of pulling up a chair and just being with her for a few minutes.
The nurse’s aide and I struck up some conversation, and although I don’t remember how exactly it happened, we ended up talking about her childhood and religious background. I knew she was a Christian, but what I had not known was that she grew up Muslim. Out of genuine interest, I asked her how she became a Christian.
And there, right in front of my patient, the nurse’s aide told her whole salvation story, and the gospel was woven into every line.
I listened as she talked about how she was exposed to Christianity when she went to school to be an aide. She was struck by how the Christians loved and accepted her, even though they knew she was muslim. She grew up learning that Muslims were to hate Christians for their infidelity, yet these Christians accepted her despite her differences. She was also touched by how no Christian forced her to believe like they did (unlike the Islamic culture she grew up in where you had no choice to what you believed). “Because there was a choice, Christianity interested me and pleased me,” she said.
She attended Bible studies, devotionals, and even church on Sunday, even though her mother would give her an unnecessary amount of household chores on Sundays in an attempt to prevent her from going. It didn’t work, for she would rise hours before the sun rose to complete all her tasks in time to still go to church.
When she accepted Christ and told her family about it, her mother packed up all of her daughter’s things, threw them outside the door, and told her that if that was the path she chose, then she was no longer a part of the family. “Have you forgotten who you are?” They angrily accused her. “Will you abandon and disrespect your entire family by changing your religion?” To his day, her mother will not see her or answer her phone calls.
“God gave me the strength I needed every day to keep following him,” she said, “even when my faith was very weak because of the persecution of my family.” Still, nothing would keep her from the truth and faith she found in Jesus, and she decidedly stubbornly to follow him no matter what. “There is no way I could ever go back to being a Muslim again,” she said, “Jesus has chosen me and saved me. I want to spend eternity in heaven with him.”
She radiated joy and peace as she talked, and she finished by reminding herself that Jesus himself said to not be surprised when people in this world hate us. “They hated him first, so should I expect anything less? Jesus said his teaching would divide mother and daughter, father and son.”
“And now you are a part of a much bigger family, the family of God,” I added, which was the first time I had spoken in over fifteen minutes as she recounted her story. I added that I had found her like a long lost sister even today, since we actually just figured out that we are the same age, born in the same year, even though I could have sworn she depasses me both in years and maturity.
We scooted our chairs back to the nursing desk and went about our duties, but I had a peace in my heart, knowing that God had orchestrated something right there. That was exactly the “moment” I had been wanting with my patient, only I didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t have to give my speech or offer what I thought would be helpful words. I just got to pull up a chair and listen as a transformed believer shared the gospel through her own heartbreaking story as a fellow heartbroken women listened intently nearby. And as she told her story with peace and confidence, hope seeped into my patient’s story as well.
All of this reminds me how important it is to just pull up a chair.
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