Walking home from the store I run into “Philip,” a guy in the neighbourhood who attends our church once in a while. He smiles and says hello, but frowns when I ask him how he’s doing. He tells me again about his visits to the doctor, the constant pain, the cut in support funding, the struggle to make ends meet. I encourage him again to go to the church for prayer on Tuesday nights. He describes again the websites that stop him from going to church. According to them, most churches have been doing it all wrong. “I get so confused,” he says, “I don’t know what to do.”
We talk for a while, then I say, “Don’t worry about figuring it all out. That’s not what Jesus cares about. What he really cares about is you and hanging out with you.”
Afterwards I feel bad for trying to fix Philip instead of listening more deeply. Lord, please help Philip. And help me be a better listener.
The next morning I sit down to pray and recall my Grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Sidon. She was old (at least fifty) and stocky with short, tight curly grey hair and round wire framed glasses. She wore plain dark dresses and orthopaedic shoes and liked to hold the wooden pointer when she taught. She was so strict that everyone dreaded going into Grade 5.
But I liked Mrs. Sidon; she was kind to me.
Whenever I was bullied or teased at school I would cry and run to the teacher. One lunch hour I was upset about something and found Mrs.Sidon in our empty classroom. She wiped my tears with her handkerchief and looked me in the eyes. “Ten-year-olds aren’t supposed to cry so much, ” she said. So I stopped.
Mrs. Sidon didn’t ask me why I cried so much. She didn’t ask questions like that. Instead she gave me a valuable tool that helped me survive elementary school.
I sense an inner prompting to thank God for her, and I do.
I enjoy the feeling of gratitude for a moment until regret about how I spoke to Philip pushes it aside. That’s when I hear Jesus thank me for giving Philip a valuable tool to survive. “It’s what you had in you at the time, and it was enough,” Jesus says to me, “Thank you.”
Boundless gratitude is my soul’s response.
“O my Beloved,
You have searched me and known me…
You encompass me with love where’er I go, and Your strength is my shield.
Such sensitivity is too wonderful for me;
It is high; boundless gratitude is my soul’s response.”
from Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan C. Merrill.