2. …But everyone can and should communicate care and concern.
In the era of electronic media, everyone can send a text, email, e-card or leave a voice-mail message communicating their care and concern. I was amazed at how many people knew that I had fallen "off the grid" but didn't express their concern until I was back "on the grid."
I have a co-worker at the seminary where I work who has had several operations in the last couple of years. His procedures have taken him away from work for weeks at a time. I kept thinking about all the times he was out and I didn't express my concern until he was back on the job. The first thing I did when I returned to work was ask for his forgiveness.
How much time does it take to send an email expressing your concern? Hold on. I'll answer that for you. It takes approximately … two minutes out of a 1,440 minute day. That's a little time investment that can mean a lot to someone.
3. Touch can be more important than words.
While I was in the emergency observation room waiting to be admitted into the hospital a number of my family members stopped by to see me. It was good to have them there. Since I was in unbelievable pain, I greatly appreciated the support of my family. As well, I had a great doctor and a great nurse waiting on me. They were very pleasant and engaging.
However, what I remember the most was my wife and my mother's touch. Except for the doctor and the nurse, only my wife and mom approached the bed and actually touched me. I kept wondering, "Why won't anybody else come close to the bed? Why won't anybody else grab my hand?" I was reminded of all the pastoral visits that I have made where I stood at a distance from the patient as if whatever they had was going to leap off the bed and attached its self to me. Unfortunately, the person I came to see was no longer a person, but an object to be prayed for and pitied, but not touched. Lord, forgive me for my ignorance.
4. Responding sooner is better than responding later.
I was out of commission for over four weeks. Although I heard from a significant number of people during that period, some responses carried more impact than others. What made the difference? Let me explain.
One of my friends found out about my condition during the third week of my ailment. He was in a staff meeting. Someone asked, "Have you heard about Pastor Moore's condition?" He hadn't. As soon as the staff meeting was over he called me. He wanted to let me know that he just found out and that he would be praying for me. Another friend of mine found out about my condition during the fourth week of my ailment. He was on his way to Sunday morning worship service, but soon as he heard, he called me.
On the other hand, some knew of my condition during the first days of my illness. However, I didn't hear from them for three or four weeks. I appreciated the concern, but it didn't have the same impact. It's not that I thought they did not care. I know they did. However, they did not care enough to allow my situation to disrupt their daily routine. People want to know that you care enough to allow your life to be disrupted on their behalf. That's what communicates more to them than your words even could.
5. Your spouse or ministry partner cannot substitute for you.
I've always had this warped opinion that my spouse can "fill in" for me. In other words, when I do not have the time (or make the time) to call or visit, my wife can substitute for me. She and I are one, right? That's what the Bible says. So, if she contacts the person in need that is as good as me making the contact. Especially, if she says, "The pastor wants to let you know …." That makes it official.