It's About All Of Us

Years ago I heard a well-known preacher tell a poignant story about his wife. When he wasn’t traveling he visited her every day in the nursing home where she lived. She didn’t know him—she didn’t know anyone. He remarked that people sometimes asked him why he thought the Lord hadn’t taken her home since she was bedridden and unable to relate to any of the staff or her loved ones. His answer to that question has never left my mind. He said that though she didn’t know him or anyone else, and was unable to leave her bed, there was one thing that she did know and that one thing was, to his mind, why the Lord left her behind in that nursing home. Apparently she constantly repeated, whether there was anyone in the room or not, “Jesus loves me.” Her witness was impeccable until the day the Lord finally took her home.

Yesterday the sister of an old friend left a message on my answering machine. I knew that the only reason Rita would call me was to tell me that Erla Jean had passed away. She had been, even before going into a nursing home, one of those people who “didn’t count,” to most of the rest of the world.

Yesterday, someone made a point of coming to me to tell me that, “it isn’t about us.” Perhaps I was being overly sensitive, antenna way too high, but that rankled. I can only speculate as to why he thought it necessary to tell me that. The remark followed up a more public one that has become a familiar tune—the ministry of the church apparently is all about the newcomers, the younger people, not those of us who have been around too long.

Don’t get me wrong—I believe in outreach. I believe in young couples, children, and babies—this generation and the next.

But I took a look around me at that generation about which none of this apparently “is.” I looked at the elderly woman sitting alone by the door. I looked at the couple who come faithfully. The husband brings his wife though she is barely able to communicate anymore because of a stroke that has crippled her both physically and mentally. He lives alone now, having had to place her in a nursing home. He once told me that no one visits her. She served the body faithfully when she was able. I think of the two ladies who also come faithfully and who have served the Lord over many years. No one acknowledges that service. Many in the congregation don’t even know who they are, who they have been. I look at a miniscule budget for seniors’ ministry that speaks volumes: Yes, ministry isn’t about them.

Then I remember the the preacher’s story and I remember this passage from Psalm 71:14-21:

But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, I God is like you? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honour and comfort me again.”

Jesus loves me.

But I must take exception to the “it isn’t about us” because that’s not true. Just as we are not to despise those with the lowliest of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12) and say they aren’t necessary, neither are we to discriminate as to who the church is “about” and who it is not “about.” The body of Christ, the family of God, is about all of us—young and old—and those who ignore or marginalize their elders are robbing this generation of valuable spiritual resources and life stories.

The psalmist reminded me that while God grants me a voice, I have something to say about Him, and I must say it, whether or not anyone else cares to listen because “it isn’t about me.” A little old lady who knew nothing more than “Jesus loves me” knew everything that was important in life. Ella Jean was important whether or not anyone recognized it.

I’m sure someone out there reading this will think I am whining. Perhaps I am. But something in me yesterday prompted me to scream (not literally) “Enough!”

Someone has forgotten Abraham, Moses, Caleb, and others who, if living today, would be shocked to hear that it “isn’t about them.” If someone had told them that, and they had accepted that news and retired to their rocking chairs, babies wouldn’t have been born, people wouldn’t have been rescued, seas wouldn’t have been crossed, and mountains wouldn’t have been conquered.

It IS about me—and you. It’s about all of us. But most of all, it’s about Jesus who never marginalized anyone.


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