Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. This first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them, I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’
While I realize Jesus is saying much more, this scripture fits perfectly with how I am having to face life this week. I have a very good friend who is 94 years old. She lives by herself with her 15 year-old shih-tzu mix and has done pretty well on her own. She has to use a walker to get around, but can still cook her own breakfast and take care of herself. She has a neighbor who takes her dog out three times a day so she doesn’t have to worry about falling. She has no immediate family, only nephews and nieces who live distantly. She was my Thanksgiving guest for the last three years because I knew she wouldn’t be invited or go over to anyone’s house. It made me feel special because she said yes to me and even ate my cooking!
Over the last year, her health has begun to deteriorate slightly with a skin infection that wouldn’t heal quickly and some appetite issues. While I always tried to visit her every other week or so to check on her and her dog, about a year ago I went to visit during a power outage (that I didn’t know about until I got there). This was when I found out about her skin infection, due to not properly cleaning a wound on her ankle. From this day on, I decided that I was going to really be her friend and check on her more often.
I helped her with her wound care for the next two weeks and eventually, developed a habit of going over there every afternoon to give her dog some herbs and treats to help with her arthritis and to just check on her. We already had a great friendship, but it grew into something deeper as we began to rely on each other. She would call me if she needed something from the store and I would expect her to call me if she needed anything.
This past week, she did exactly that. She called me and told me she was going to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital because she couldn’t hold any food down. The previous day she had complained of no energy and no appetite but I made her eat a little something anyway. Three hours later, she tried to eat again and everything came back up. With not being able to hold food down, she knew she needed to get checked out quickly. I don’t know why she called me, except that God knew she needed someone with her, so I took her to the hospital and stayed with her until someone could tell her what was wrong.
8 hours later, we found out that she is in stage 4 pancreatic cancer that has spread into her liver and continuing to aggressively grow. She had developed a large hard knot in her belly, the size of a cantaloupe, and experienced a lot of pain whenever she had to move. We knew this was end of life news, but never really said it out loud. I made a phone call to one of her nephews to give him the news and let him tell the family.
It hasn’t been a week, but now that she is in hospice care, she has had more visitors from her family and her church than she ever got in the last year. Everyone has just been too busy to remember a little old lady who has no children of her own. It doesn’t matter what she did in her life before. Jesus loves her just as much as He loves me, so she deserves everything that I think I would deserve. That means the love and companionship of people all the time, not just during emergencies.
I learned how important that is over the last year when I did make it over to see her every day. We can’t say we care and then do nothing, expecting others to take care of it or for it to take care of itself. We can’t say we’ll do something and then turn around and make excuses. That’s become so common today because we claim we’re just too busy. There are more important things that must take precedence. Jesus wants us to love each other the way He loves us. We can’t be too busy when we love the people around us more than we love ourselves. That’s the key but that’s also what’s missing. We can preach it but can we actually do it? I found out this year that I can, even though it’s hard, it can be done. I will no longer be too busy to love.