[Word count: 596. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]
DISCLAIMER: I wrote this August 8, 2012, but decided to sit on it until now. In light of my friend Robin’s recent illness and passing, it carries extra significance.
Imagine someone you love—a mother, father, sibling, cousin, or close friend—unconscious and unresponsive. You don’t know what caused it and you don’t know how long it’s going to last. But the doctors say, “Keep talking to them, they can hear you. They may also respond to touch.” What would you do? How often would you visit? How long would you stay?
If it was someone I loved, I would become protective. I would be watching to make sure nurses and orderlies treated them right, kept them clean and comfortable. If it was my sister, I would sing our favorite songs to her. I would have DVDs of Good Times and The Jeffersons playing around the clock like she does most days.
If it was my mother, I would recite encouraging and empowering scriptures to her; she might respond to that. If it was my papa, I would massage his feet and make sure his toenails didn’t grow too long and uncomfortable. If it was me, I would want someone to touch me; hold my hand or stroke my forehead. For the love of God, make sure my lips aren’t chapped. I hate that.
And if it was your God, what would you do?
The answer to that question is what I’m going to have to do if I want to engage in worship right now. I posed a question in God and the Silent Treatment about what to do when it seems God won’t respond to you. I think this is my answer now.
God is not dead. But most days he appears to be sleeping soundly, deeply. I don’t know what brought it on or how long it’s going to last. But I love him. And we have a long-reaching history together. If he were laying unresponsive, I would need to activate the love I have and put it to work.
I would need to sing him his favorite songs. I would need to become protective and look after his body; make sure his body was tended to and not neglected. “Do you love me? Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). I would need to do the things that used to make him smile proudly over me, and then tell him about them. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
I would go digging through my box of mementos to remember things he liked and do those things often. Who knows? One of those things might cause him to, as I squeeze his hand, squeeze mine back. He might make a sound or eke out a word. Something might stimulate him to open his eyes. Something might wake him to life. Return him to what I remember.
The last thing I would need to do is abandon him. I did enough of that before he fell asleep, disregarding him while he was active and moving around me. You wouldn’t abandon your mother, would you? Your father, sister, brother, cousin, or friend? In their non-responsive state, you wouldn’t give up on them and stop visiting. Any day could be the day they return to you.
And what if it was you, laying in a state of suspended rest, but still able to hear, able to feel? Still knowing and discerning? What if it was you? How would you want to be taken care of? “Ministered to?” Perhaps you ought to pay that forward now.