I’ve been a Firefighter/Paramedic for 13 years and sometimes the emergencies never seem to end. This was one of those days.
I rolled over and squinted at the clock as the station tones faded into my subconscious ready to startle me even on my days off. 2 AM. I yanked on my boots and stumbled to the ambulance where my partner was waiting. He’d been a step ahead of me all day. Credit to him being 15 years older than me – a fact he wouldn’t let me forget every time he beat me to the punch.
We sped off in a blur of lights to help whoever was in need. This time it was for abnormal lab results or something like that. I can’t exactly remember. It was 2 AM. Perfect time to call 911 for lab results, I guess. Health care professionals like to joke about the reasons people call 911 but the truth is an emergency for one isn’t for another and that’s okay. Doesn’t make it less of an emergency. At least that’s what I keep trying to convince myself of.
Anyway, we arrived on scene with find an older gentleman needing to be seen at the hospital for a persistent problem with his back. And the abnormal lab results of course. There were no life threats but the man was in a good amount of pain. I’d like to say my compassion kicked in but I think it was still trying to wake up. I got a little information from the nursing home staff and we made our way to the ambulance.
Communication with the man was difficult because he had a stoma. Stomas are from a last resort effort to control the breathing of a patient. They are holes in the neck that are cut directly into the person’s trachea or wind pipe. The patient breathes from the stoma instead of their mouth or nose. It’s very hard to speak with a stoma.
My partner and I got the man ready for a quick transport to the hospital and headed out. I wasn’t really interested in small talk and my patient really wasn’t either. But the frequent grimace told me that he was very uncomfortable from the issue he was having in his back.
During one of the grimaces I noticed a thought moving through my brain about ministering to him in some way. I knew it was the soft voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to me because there wasn’t anything I wanted to do other than keep mostly to myself, complete the transport, and find my bed.
But as I watched the man I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit in my stomach and I leaned over my knees. “I’d like to pray for you if that’s okay.”
The man glanced my way once and then again. He looked like he might try and speak but then focused his eyes straight ahead.
“Would that be okay?” I asked him.
I almost missed it but I was pretty sure I saw his head flicker in a nod and that was good enough for me. So I asked the Lord how he wanted me to move forward and I felt led to just start blessing the man. I blessed him with health and restoration. While I was blessing him I saw a vision.
The picture God showed me was a puzzle. There were many pieces scattered around and they all had jagged edges. It didn’t matter how the pieces lined up they wouldn’t fit together. The Lord was showing me that the man viewed himself as scattered and incomplete. He didn’t feel whole – he felt broken. Hope was gone and despair had set in. He didn’t think there was any way he could be put back together.
But then the Lord showed me that he created the man complete. He showed me that he can make the rough edges smooth. He said that he is able to put the man back together and make him whole once again.
As I explained all of this to the man thick tears tumbled down his cheeks. He didn’t speak but he didn’t have to. It was obvious what was happening – how God was touching his heart. He smiled at me from the renewed life deep inside and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
It’s much easier for us to close our eyes to the world than to get involved in the needs of people. Maybe it always will be. Being the hands and feet of Jesus means making a choice to notice the people around us and being willing to respond as led by the Holy Spirit. Those are choices most of us don’t naturally make. It takes effort, like pushing against a wall that pushes back.
I don’t always notice and I’m not always willing. But as I head into a new year I hope to be made even more into the image of Jesus. I know that’s going to require me to make the choices that get me uncomfortable. But the reward is worth the risk no matter what I stand to lose.
So I look forward to the opportunities to make those choices because I know God is building something in front of me that’s far greater than anything behind. And I want to press on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And I know you do too. So let’s make the tough choices together and be a part of the abundant LIFE God is releasing onto the earth.
Jesse and Kara Birkey