As we pulled into our church parking lot yesterday morning, I had one of those sinking feelings. The kind of feeling you get when you remember you were supposed to do something and completely forgot. Shawn and I, along with our village, were to be serving at a nursing home during the service, and I was supposed to communicate with our village about it. I completely dropped the ball.
So as we're getting out of our car and heading into church, I inform Shawn about our imminent nursing home visit - the first he's heard about it - and tell him we need to at least talk to those organizing the service projects and ask if we can go another week with our village.
We meet with the volunteers and as we explain the situation, they all nod in agreement, "You two should just go anyway. It would mean a lot to the people." Then one of the volunteers proceeds to explain more details about this particular nursing home, about Nancy who loves to play Uno but goes when it's not her turn, about how we can go room to room if we choose. The whole time, we're both thinking, "Do we really have to do this? We'd really rather just go sit in church."
But the right thing to do is blatantly obvious. We can't get out of it now. We're going to the nursing home.
We drove there, slowly, and as we pulled up to the front of the nursing home we just sat and stared at it. We looked at our clock. 10:21. We have to stay until 11:30, right?
Let me just say, we realized then and we realize even more now that these are terrible attitudes. We wish we would have felt and acted differently. But I have to be honest. We would've rather been anywhere else but there.
We finally stepped out of the car and into the building, and I asked Shawn, "So what will it be: going room to room or playing Uno?" Neither sounded very enticing, but we decided to go room to room.
We wandered around until we found a nurse, and she immediately pointed us to a small group of elderly people slumped over in their wheelchairs and said, "Go talk to them."
Cue the painful silence.
We cautiously approached the wheelchair circle and began to talk. Two women looked up at us while the rest stayed asleep.
We began making small talk and discovered that one of the women's sons was a pastor in the area and that she was born and raised in Franklin. We began asking others where they were from. One woman's response made me smile: "We all live here. Did you know that?"
A few minutes in, we were running out of group questions and were at a loss of what to do next. I suggested we sing a song together - Amazing Grace - and three of the women agreed. Shawn and I began to sing and several mouthed the words along with us. It was beautiful.
I had remembered seeing a hymnal in a nearby room, so I grabbed it and we began to thumb through hymns, searching for any we might know. We found several, and Shawn and I sat on the floor in the center of a circle of wheelchairs. It was such a sweet and worshipful time - about the last thing we expected. We sang "In the Garden" twice (a constant request), What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Solid Rock, and many, many more.
The looks on the two women's faces was absolutely precious as we sang hymn after hymn. They clasped time-worn, arthritic hands and diligently tried to remember as many words as they could. One woman was especially hard of hearing, but once she caught onto the words, a smile took over her face and she sang out. After we sang all five verses of "I Surrender All" she said, "You know, when we surrender our life to Him, He has a place prepared for us. When this life is over, we'll go to be with the Lord." To hear it spoken from someone on the precipice of life and death, and to see the trusting smile that never faded, was a blessing beyond what I deserved.
When it was time for the residents to be wheeled into the dining room for lunch, we gave hugs to our new friends and promised we'd be back next month. One dear woman grabbed my hand and said, "We all wanted to go to church today, but we couldn't - so the Lord brought church to us!"
Talk about convicting. I hadn't even wanted to get out of the car. This woman's heart was in such a better place than mine, and I needed to feel the sting of my own selfishness.
Shawn and I talked about the experience - repenting along the way - and he made a great point. At the end of their lives, these dear people are sitting or lying down not doing much of anything all day long. But I have a feeling God is more pleased with their hearts than He was with ours today. Thankfully, I still believe He received glory in spite of our weak knees and selfish hearts. And next month, we will truly look forward to our visit.