“Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
Ps 105 :12-15
12 When they were but few in number,
few indeed, and strangers in it,
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”
My friends were named Bill and Bob. They were both in their mid-nineties and they spent most of their time in the retirement community doing service to others. They cleaned, folded, and distributed clothing protectors at breakfast and dinner to about 40 residents. They made sure that the orders of worship were folded for Sunday services. They organized a Men’s Coffee on Thursday morning to talk about topics of importance. Mostly though, they built and maintained caring relationships with people around them. Virtually every day each of them would visit three or four residents who were bed bound in the nursing home.
From the outside, their lives were certainly not within the definition of perfect. They lived in a old independent living facility and nursing home, where they each had someone come in to help them bathe and manage their medications. Bob, a former snow skier, was confined to a wheelchair, because he could no longer operate his powerchair safely. Bill had chronic back and stomach problems that caused him immense pain and constant discomfort, using a walker to get around and sitting down often. Yet they were mostly unflappable in their kindness, generosity, and positive spirit. Everyday they taught me what it looks like to let go of regrets and resentments. I learned from them the oppression of my own regrets, holding me back from closeness to self and others.
They weren’t overly concerned with what others thought of them, they were at peace with how their lives are and had been. Their biggest worries seemed to be that they were less able to help others in need, wanting to be a good friend to those who helped them. Other residents have now begun to do some of the things these two men can no longer do, because they want to live up to that example. These wise elders showed me that letting go, or forgiving, could be a powerful and freeing force for connection to humanity. The sin and oppression are letting “me” be the most important thing in my life, instead of showing, giving, and behaving in “love” to self and others.
They exuded grace. The simple fact that they were well loved and respected by everyone I knew, showed me that, whatever their history, they were “forgiven” through their acts of love and caring. Bob and Bill lived their faith daily in their lives, yet they did not talk about it; they didn’t need to. Love is given to them though it was never asked for. These men were ready to transition when the time came, but they also knew they had gifts to offer the world until then. I want to always be surrounded by such examples in the hope that it can be so with me.