Friday, August 29, 2014

My Friend, Pat

I have loved exercise for as long as I can remember. As a young mom, I would take my babies in the stroller on long “power walks” just about every day. As they got older, they would ride their bikes alongside me and the dog, happily pedaling away as I got my cardio for the day. Over the years, my knees began to give me trouble, and I switched it up, adding in a stationary bike and elliptical machine to my routine. Eventually, the knees were able to do only the machines, but I was still getting my much-needed cardio, and I was happy.

About 5 years ago, I had the first of a series of knee surgeries that would spell the end of my weight-bearing exercise, so I moved to the pool. I have learned to love water aerobics, and have managed to get that endorphin boost that I so enjoy. As a bonus, I've made a few friends along the way. One of those friends is Pat. Pat is 86 years old, and still very active and lively. (Actually, she gets around better than I do at 51! Honestly, I’ve struggled a bit with that, but that’s a story for another blog post.) I have enjoyed getting to know Pat a little better than some of the other ladies because she is the only one who also comes, as I do, on the days when the class is not in session. We both like to go every day, because it makes us feel better. Pat used to bring a friend with her, and I would hear them talking and laughing as they floated around, not really serious about the exercise like I was. But then her friend had a bad fall, and was forced to move to an assisted living facility, too far away for her to continue to join us in the pool.

So, Pat began to talk with me as we exercised. It was frustrating at times, because I was there for cardio, and her goals were more social. I usually managed, though, to break away after chatting for a few minutes, and move on with my workout. About three months ago, Pat shared with me that her daughter’s cancer, of which she’d told me earlier in our friendship, had become much more advanced. There was nothing more the doctors could do. Over the next few weeks, I knew that I needed to stay with her as she talked about her daughter. Our conversations were not always focused on that situation, but it was clear to me that Pat was lonely, very sad and anxious about what was coming. My flesh really wanted to break away, as I had become pretty good at doing, but the Spirit said no. The Lord called me to give up my exercise for a time, and serve my friend.

Over the next few weeks, Pat shared with me her view of God, and I had opportunities to steer her toward a more biblical belief. I spoke with her about His sovereignty, His love, and His Word. I was thankful that the Lord laid many Scriptures on my heart, and I was able to quote them for her. I am not sure if Pat is a believer or not, but she calls herself a Christian, so I spoke to her as though she was. As her daughter’s death drew nearer, she would often be weeping in the pool, and I did my best to comfort her. Finally, the day came. The first words she had for me were, “My daughter passed away last night.” I did my best to comfort her, and then I just listened. Funeral plans, her relationship with her son-in-law and grandchildren, memories of her daughter, and a thousand other things poured out of her heart.

As we were parting ways that day, she began to weep, thanking me for taking the time to listen to her all these weeks, and for my friendship. She told me I would just never know what a difference that made, and how grateful she was. “I know I talk too much,” she said, “and I've kept you from your exercise. But I’m so thankful!” My heart was filled with joy as she spoke, and I was so grateful to the Lord for helping me to resist the temptation to keep the friendship shallow, and keep up my cardio. That day, the Lord taught me that the exercise, which I had valued so highly, was really meaningless compared to the glorious work He was doing, both in me and in my friend.

I don’t share this to boast of my generosity or my counseling skills, but I say it to boast in my weakness. If it were not for the disability God has ordained for me, none of this would have come about. Occasionally, God gives me a glimpse of the good work He is doing through this broken body, and I am so grateful when He does. The pain and grief of this physical trial have softened my heart toward others who are hurting. I have more compassion and mercy and am, I hope, more others-oriented than I ever was before. All of these things make me more useful to the Lord, and for that I am grateful.

How about you? How is the Lord using your pain today? Leave a comment, and let’s rejoice together!