This is part four of a series on my friend and fellow pilgrim, Kate, who was 91 years old when she enrolled in hospice with end-stage heart failure. You may remember that she was born in West Virginia and was a crack shot with a rifle. She shared how she, at age 10, went to the woods to fetch two chickens for her neighbor’s supper. She whistled and shot both chickens when they stuck their heads up to see what was going on.
Kate is strong-willed. Her daughter, Rose, repeatedly warned her not to overextend herself, to ask for help when getting out of bed or walking. Several weeks ago, I sided with Kate, and told her to do whatever she wanted to do. We talked about how there are some things worse than a broken bone, and that’s a broken spirit. Well, guess what? A few weeks later, Kate fractured her arm while trying to walk on her own. I was dreading my next visit, because I knew I was going to catch a big, “I told you so,” from Rose. But she took it easy on me. Kate stated that she would do it all over again.
Kate is strong willed, but it’s not her strong will that I admire most. It’s her tenderness to the Word and Spirit of God. In a previous column titled “God Speaks to You Like That,” Kate shared three stories in which God spoke to her to help others. But recently she shared a story about how God challenged her to be obedient, even in the small things. Kate shared: “God is still working with me. When I was in the hospital, they brought me two washrags to wash off with. I really like those wash cloths. They aren’t like the ones we buy. The ones we buy at the store are too thick. You can’t even wash your ears out with them. But the ones at the hospital are just right. I thought I’d take one. I thought, ‘They wouldn’t miss just one.’ I had it all folded and God said, ‘Now that would be stealing, wouldn’t it, Kate?’ He told me real plain, so I put it back. I’d rather have dirty ears.”
It’s so easy to justify those little things that no one will ever notice or miss, isn’t it? But each of those little things chisels at and defines our character. Chuck Swindol, pastor and author, said it this way: “A thought repeated over and over leads to an action, an action repeated over and over becomes a habit, and habits repeated over and over determine our character.” So those little things aren’t so little after all, are they?
Jesus asked His disciples, “What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) In the light of truth, I think “I’d rather have dirty ears.”
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.