For as long as I live, I don't think I will ever forget the vulnerability in voice on the other end of the phone. I was getting ready to begin another day of school with the kids when the phone rang. I normally don't answer the phone in the morning because it makes it harder to keep the kids on task if I'm on the phone. This time I did. "It's me. I just wanted to call you before they take me in for my procedure. I'm scared." It was my father-in-law.
The night before he had gone to the ER with chest pains. All night I had pains of my own. I tossed and turned half asleep and half praying. All I could think about was how I couldn't bear the thought of losing him, how many opportunities I had possibly missed to share Christ with him, and that it was almost my birthday. When I did doze off I found myself waking, pleading with God...telling Him that all I wanted for my birthday was my father-in-law to live and to receive God's love for him.
I wasn't expecting to hear from him when he called. I knew he would be going in for a heart catheterization. I hadn't heard fear in his voice before. He's always been so strong, so positive. How do you wrap peace around a person over the phone? How do you become the blanket of God's love to one who hasn't experienced it the way you have? What if this is the last conversation you get to have with each other? All these thoughts race through my mind at lightening speed as I listen. Then before I know what I am saying I ask "Do you want me to pray with you?" He hesitates for a moment and then says yes. Suddenly the peace that I wonder about wraps itself around me, steadies my voice that wants to quiver, and I entrust this precious man's life into the hands of God acknowledging out loud what I have always known. God loves him, God holds him, God hears him, God will protect him...and through our prayer God is sent off with him into the operating room. After the amen I hear relief and gratitude in his voice as he says, "Thanks". We exchange "I love you's", hang up the phone, and I crumble.
For the rest of the day his scared voice would haunt me and lead me to pray. I have the best father-in-law a girl could ever ask for. He has loved me like the word "in-law" didn't exist between us. God has made him a continual source of encouragement in my life...especially with regard to raising my girls. I have a shoe box with the most beautiful Mother's Day cards in them from him! In the moments when I have doubted my decisions as a mom, or just plain felt like I was headed for burn out...he's left me notes. Notes that say things like "Here's a few bucks go treat yourself. You 're a great mom." or "Thank you for loving my son." He is this way with everyone in his life. He loves us all well, generously, and fiercely. I don't think I will ever tire of the way he says goodbye after a visit. He takes my face in his hands, and says "Bye doll, behave yourself! Love you!" Funny how the moments in our lives that really mean something are the ones we hold dear and relive when we are afraid of losing someone we love!
My dear father-in-law ended up having emergency open heart surgery that day. He had the very surgery that he was afraid of. They found three blockages. The doctors say it is a miracle that he only had a mild heart attack and didn't die. God was with him. God even sent a chaplain to pray with him before he went in for open heart surgery. He wrapped His love around my father-in-law through the prayers of His people. I marvel at God's love that reaches across miles, through phone lines, and transcends time and space!
I normally wouldn't share something like this here because it isn't just my story...it's someone else's. However, there is something vital that I have come away from this with. I need to be more bold in sharing Christ. I grew up in the Church during a time when evangelism was the equivalent to beating people over the head with a Bible. We handed out tracks on street corners and we were taught to look for an opportunity in every conversation to share Christ. It's different now. This approach seems to push people away. Because I haven't wanted to push anyone away, I have become too cautious. It's true that our best testimony...our best witness is the way we live our lives and the way we love others. I'm not suggesting that we change this. What I am saying is don't wait too long to speak up because you never know when it will be too late! I am going to ask God to make me more aware of opportunities to speak and to give me the boldness to lovingly share Him with others. I've been too hung up on not wanting to say the wrong thing at the wrong time...so much so that I forget that time could be running out! By all means let the way you live your life and your love for others go before you and testify as to who your Savior is, just don't be afraid to make the most of every opportunity.
I leave you with this "Be very careful then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." Ephesians 5:15