by Theresa Newell
Sometimes we encounter a person vulnerable enough to share graces they have received. A grace for one becomes a grace for all. As a hospital chaplain, I am often fortunate enough to receive these shared graces. I am honored to be there when people give—the gift of themselves.
One elderly woman, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and a broken hip (having fallen, not for the first time), taught me a great lesson about being a child of God. She spoke softly and I had to lean in to hear her.
“I told God, ‘I’m done. I can’t take anymore. I’m broken. I’m at the end.’ And God said to me, ‘You are at the end, and in the middle, and at the beginning.’”
“And God went like this,” she continued, as she ran her hand gently down her cheeks before squeezing them together to make her lips into a kissy face. This woman then reached out her hands and made the same on my face, touching my face lightly, running her hands down my masked cheeks. She smiled at me and said, “Just like looking at a newborn baby. That’s how God looks at me. I’m God’s baby.”
What a beautiful image of God! God looking at me and caressing God’s own precious newborn.
To God, I am a new creation, a bright shining being, just getting started in my journey of life. And my first lesson is love—the love of my parent God petting me, calling me “good,” and naming me “beloved.”
We are all newborns—whatever our age. The young, the old, the jaded, the innocent are all God’s beloved babies learning how to live life loved.
Then, perhaps with renewed energy, my patient continued, “I asked God, ‘Am I wasting my time here in the hospital?’ and God said, ‘What is time?’”
God has all the time in the world. God created time when God set the planets to spin around the stars. God, in God’s self, is outside of time.
We are at the beginning of our new life in Christ. Time is God’s gift to us. How will we spend it? What endeavors are worthy of our precious little time on this earth? What is worthy of a child of God?
My patient was not wasting her time! She was giving herself away in love. Her self-gift, her willingness to be vulnerable, sharing the graces she was given, made my life better. May I, child of God, give as I have been given. May I, faltering child as I am, learn to give my life too. After all, what is life? What is time?
Theresa Newell is a hospital chaplain, a postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Olympia, a wife, and a mother to mostly grown foster, adopted and biological children. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, the youngest of her children, and her Great Dane.