Here is what happens when you get bold in your prayers and ask God to bless you with opportunities to serve and be useful.
The last patient of the day (I’ll call him Lee) is on the schedule to make sure he has current medications for acid reflux and sciatic nerve pain. That takes 2 minutes to cover. Then he tells you he really, really needs to talk to someone because he is so stressed and depressed. The Mental Health provider who normally would be seeing patients today is out on family leave. The psychiatrist won’t be back for 2 weeks. You have a choice: make the patient wait to see someone, OR listen and see if you can deal with the issue yourself. You take door Number 2, and 45 long minutes later, here’s what you have learned:
The patient has:
5 children, ages 8 to 29.
Been married 30 years.
Had an argument with his wife.
Been accused by his wife of threatening her while holding a knife.
Been jerked around by the judicial system, offered a deal, had a judge deny it.
A restraining order that prevents him from seeing or talking to his wife and children.
Been arrested, let out on his own recognizance, re-arrested and put back in jail, because he called his kids’ school to see if they were okay when he found out his house had burned down.
Been told he isn’t going to get the deal he agreed to, but is looking at three years in prison.
Had the three years extended to possibly nine.
Never been in prison.
No one in the area who knows him. He is from another county.
The feeling that he has lost everything and couldn’t sink any lower.
He also has:
Faith (recites Psalm 23 to get through each day).
Humility – he isn’t angry, just trying to cope with what looks like an impossible situation.
I got to:
Support his faith.
Make sure he gets a Bible.
Testify of God’s love and mercy.
Teach him how to stop counting his losses and look for just one good thing each day. (Today’s good thing was that God sent him to see me.)
Hear him say that he “had a feeling, a voice inside, that let him know I was telling the truth.”
Feel emotionally drained afterwards, but incredibly good about this answer to prayer.
What he learned:
God is mindful of him.
There is light in the darkest night if you have faith.
What I learned (again):
God is mindful of me, and is okay with me being his messenger.
There is always someone who has it way worse than I do.
I have a lot more ability to listen, counsel, and advise than I like to admit.
No matter what life’s problems are, faith can see you through them.
Prisoners (inmates) are capable of feeling the Holy Spirit, given the chance.
I need to keep recording these experiences as they happen.
In follow-up to the above experience, I saw the same inmate today. He looked and acted much less stressed, more confident than he could manage. He asked if I could call him down to the office because he wanted to share something with me. I wasn’t able to do that, because other priorities needed to be addressed first.
Later that day, I went to his cell block and asked the officer to bring him out for a medical visit. When he sat down, he told me that he had been offered a deal of 1 year in prison, instead of the possible 9, but he wasn’t sure he should take it because he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. We talked for a few minutes, and I carefully avoided giving him anything that might be considered legal advice, concentrating instead on encouraging him to ponder the possibilities that were being offered him, and to listen with his heart and mind to see what feelings might come to him to guide his decision.
He suddenly changed the subject, and pointed to his shoes. Where he had previously been wearing the standard jail-issue plastic sandals, which hurt his feet terribly (he had some medical problems with them), he was now wearing some canvas and rubber shoes. He said that when an inmate from his housing unit was being released, that inmate came to him and asked what size shoes he wore. Lee answered that he wore a size 12. The other inmate said, “Then I want you to take these shoes. I think God wants you to have them.”
Again and again, I see direct evidence that in this population, this group of what society and religion call sinners, that God knows them, their needs and struggles. He blesses them, just as He does me, through other people, and gives them reasons to change, and to hope.
j. lewis is an internationally published poet, musician, and nurse practitioner. His poems have appeared online and in print in numerous journals from California to Nigeria to the UK. His first collection of poetry and photography was published in June 2016, and is available on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/clear-day-october-j-lewis/dp/168073055X). His chapbook, every evening is december, was published by Praxis Magazine (http://www.praxismagonline.com/every-evening-december-j-lewis/) in February 2018.