FOOTSTEPS IN THE CORRIDOR
Alone? Who was looking for you, and you did not come by?
By Pastor Steve Van Nattan
The Poem-- Your Footsteps in the Corridor
I know I shall not hear,
long the hours and while I lie,
long for someone just to stand,
noises strange, some soft and low,
I was tuning an organ in a Presbyterian church in Arizona one day. Several music people were on hand. After a while, the pastor drove up and came into the church. He at once began to grumble about having to visit a lady in a nursing home. He said that she would tell him all her troubles and pains every time he went, and he made it very clear that he was very irritated about it. He ended his tirade with, "I am not paid enough to put up with this."
The preacher was well paid, had a small ranch on which he kept several riding horses, and he drove a new classy automobile. But, that was not enough to ask him to listen to the sorrows of an old church member who was now captive of a small room in a nursing home.
Let a man examine himself-- It is now our turn. Who do we know who is stuck away, either in a nursing home, a care facility, or in a two small rooms where they seldom can venture out due to their old age infirmities? Perhaps someone is in the hospital, and they have a long time of recovery and endure rehab.
When we are in great health, or even tolerable health, and we can shop, we can go to church, and we can get around, the fact that the preacher and the saints don't stop by is not so hard to deal with. But, we all have to deal with it-- our days of being shut in and alone are coming. Is it not reasonable to look forward to those days and make a down payment on them? Should we not take the time to help some old warrior, shut up in the barn, make the last journey into the Glory.
I have not been there, but I watched as my parents went through this. Their old friends were either gone on before them, or they were too far away. The younger saints were too busy to stop by. Once in a while, someone would call on the phone. My Dad ended his days talking about how relieved he would be to just go be with the Lord. That was a blessing in a way, to see his faith in the Lord, but part of his look into the Glory was due to loneliness. Even when friends are visiting, those hundreds of hours running together in a seamless way are a small taste of hell. If no one stops by, it is only magnified. The face of Jesus becomes infinitely more interesting than it was just a few years ago when I was busy with life and getting around.
My parents had some old friends who, after they sold the store, decided God had called them to visit old folks in nursing homes around southern Arizona. Their visits to my parents were regular and sweet. These folks would bring fruit and treats, and they stayed long enough to talk about old times, present pains, and to pray with my parents. I don't think I should name these folks without their permission, but they are famous in Palominas, Arizona.
My folks would get great diversion with just a trip in the wheel chairs to the front sidewalk of the nursing home. Mom went out the door one day alone and rolled down the lot and tipped over. She was not mentally off-- she just wanted to move a little further away from the small room they kept her in.
Preacher, let me talk to you. I find that preachers are very poor at looking in on the old folks who are shut in. Why is this. Here is why. Since about 1940 in the USA, and in much of the rest of the world, pastors have moved, or been moved by denominations, about every five years. Sometimes even faster. For this reason, pastors do not see the hard working, generous tithing, saints go through that transition into old age when the cash won't pay the bills, they cannot get around anymore, and they cannot tithe much at all. Most of you preachers deal with the middle year people, and they pay your salary. When you take a new church, the old folks are in the nursing homes, and you have no feeling for them.
You are told they were faithful long ago, teaching Sunday School, going visiting, winning souls, and giving. But, you never saw it. So, there is no draw on your tender mercies to go to them-- only some small sense of duty. Soon you will be moving on, and the cycle will start all over again, but you will never watch that transition until your parents get old. Even then, many of you will be far from your parents, and you will not have to deal with their sorrow and loneliness. You will leave it to your brothers and sisters near them.
This bit of writing is unlike many of the articles I have written. It is personal, as I think of the going Home of my own parents. It reminds me of the old folks in the four churches I pastored-- the ones I feel good about, and the ones I know I neglected. I watch pastors around me, and I realize some of them have no love for the old folks. If they did, they couldn't stay away from them. I see other pastors who are quietly taking time, it does not have to be that hard to do, on the way from here to there, to stop for even a few minutes. Read the Word, sing an old hymn, and move on.
My parents got a great lift out of a dozen oranges. They would really jump for joy if I brought a few avocados. Those are really good because they have to ripen them in the window, and the reminder that I cared hangs on until they can eat them. Sneak in some junk food. Come on, they are nearly over the line into the Glory-- who cares about a little junk food? Unless they really react to it. Let them have some fun for a change.
Preacher, and all you who want to be great warriors for Christ, I must tell you that the best warrior is a soldier who, when the battle is over, can go back and sit on the porch swing with an old warrior and just talk about other times and other places. And, if it is the same old war stories, the same old yarns about raising hogs in Mississippi, the real man, the real godly woman, will listen like it is the first time they ever heard it. The mature warrior for Jesus Christ will laugh and tease and encourage the old saint to tell the story again and again.
If you cannot answer that little question, you are in deep trouble, my friend.
If you are given to memorizing the Word of God, may I suggest you memorize the above verses. They will come to mind over and over as you think of life, how many years you have left, and how you might be using them.
Last thought: When you visit an old saint, if they are losing it mentally, keep asking them EVERY time you visit them, to tell you how they got saved. If they don't know they told you before, telling you again will do wonders for their soul, for it will give them a little more assurance as they speak the things that become salvation.
If they cannot even remember their salvation story, then YOU tell it to them, and read a verse of Scripture that give assurance. Tell them they are safe in the arms of Jesus. I feel sorry for you pitiful preachers who are terrified to rejoice in some other saint's salvation because you think everyone you meet could be lost. If you heard their confession of faith long ago, believe it, and encourage them.
90:9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale
that is told.
So, they lie there waiting to hear your steps. My folks could hear my steps coming, though other people were walking around the nursing home. They were both looking at the door as I arrived. We have no idea how it feels to wait, and no one came. Let us make sure those sweet old faithful folks hear familiar steps in the corridor soon.
fly away, oh Glory.....
BACK TO THE WAR ROOM
BACK TO MORAL ISSUES MENU
BACK TO OPENING PAGE OF THE JOURNAL