This morning I was filling out more paperwork for potential ministry opportunities. One of the questions asked one of the dumbest things I’ve done in ministry. I know there have been many, but one of my “classics” is when I was a wet-behind-the-ears pastor in Ohio.
The church received a call that there was an elderly man in the hospital who was requesting a pastor. Hospital visits were new to me, but how difficult could they be? Actually, there were nerves of not knowing who I would be seeing, what his situation was or what would transpire over the course of my time with him.
As I walked into the hospital room, it was clear the man was frail. He was gaunt and his face bore the fresh cuts of a recent fall. I introduced myself to him, expecting him to be asking questions of a spiritual nature or at least making his prayer requests known. Instead, he requested that I move his legs.
My Bible training had taught me many things, but it did not have a course that covered the operation of hospital beds. I looked into the hall to see if I could find a nurse to help with the situation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one and the man’s desperate pleas convinced me that I needed to be the one to do something. How difficult could it be to push a few arrow buttons?
The button I pushed was accomplishing the goal. The man’s legs begin to rise. I hadn’t been operating it very long when the man began to cry out, “Oh pastor, oh pastor!” This was not good. Through the moans and cries, he was making it clear he was not comfortable. He wanted me to move his legs again. I was in a panic. He’s a frail, elderly man wanting the assistance of a pastor and I’m contorting his body into painful shapes.
I went to the hall again and fortunately there was a nurse present this time. All the while, the man’s pleas could be heard begging me to move his legs. I told her the situation. She was calm and collected, much to her credit. She came into the room, lowered the bed a little and explained that he was just wanting his legs readjusted on the pillows. She gently placed his legs into a new position and the man’s agony subsided. Having done her part, she left the room. Now I was supposed to pray with the guy.
I was flustered. I felt terrible. I don’t remember what I prayed, but I know it was fairly quick. Amen couldn’t come quick enough. There was no small chat after that. I learned a valuable lesson and I’m sure he did as well. Sometimes we learn life’s lessons through pain. Unfortunately, sometimes we learn through the pain we cause others.