Clarence was admitted to hospice with melanoma, “skin cancer”. It’s been years since Clarence passed; therefore many of the details about him and about our conversations have faded. But I do vividly remember Clarence asking me if I wanted to see the extent of his cancer; and Clarence pulling back the sheet that covered his body. His entire body was spattered with lesions. That’s not an image that easily fades. I also remember his modest cottage being on the left as I drove around the curve of the country road. I remember the road being lined with trees and thinking how peaceful and inviting it was.
Clarence and his wife were “country folks”; and Clarence was a country preacher who, like the Apostle Paul, was “…not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ…” (Romans 1:16-17). He talked openly about his faith and about the importance of acknowledging God as God; about heeding God’s prompts; as illustrated in the following story that Clarence shared with me: “I was out on my tractor one day and God told me to go and witness to my neighbor. So I turned my tractor off right then and there and I went. I left it right in the middle of the field. When God speaks to you, you need to do it right now. My neighbor is a preacher now.”
Clarence’s story reminds me of the words of Oswald Chambers, chaplain to the allied forces in Egypt during WWI: “Most of us show such disrespect to God that we do not even hear what He says, He might never have spoken…I hear God by the devotion of hearing…What hinders me from hearing is that I am taken up with other things…I am devoted to things, to service, to convictions, and God may say what He likes, but I don’t hear Him…I have not cultivated the devotion of hearing…I am taken up with things , things which I must do, and I become deaf to Him.”(Utmost for His Highest; February 13th)
We hear what we are listening for, don’t we. Let me tell you a “once upon a time”. Once upon a time, there was a biologist who decided to reunite with his old college roommate who had become a broker in New York City. They were walking down the crowed bustling streets together when the biologist said to his broker friend, “Stop for a second. I hear a cricket!” His friend replied, “A cricket! There aren’t any crickets in New York City. And besides how in the world could you hear a cricket with all this noise?” The biologist then walked over to a concrete planter, pulled out a cricket, and said, “See! We hear what we are listening for.” Then he said, “Let me show you what I mean”. He pulled a handful of change from his pocket and threw it upon the sidewalk. The bustling crowd stopped in their tracks and scrambled for the change.
So what do you say? Let’s not allow ourselves to become so “taken up with other things”; that we become deaf to Him. Let’s be like Clarence and “cultivate the devotion of hearing”; for we truly do hear what we are listening for.
I’ll close by leaving you with the lyrics of the song, “The Very Next Thing”, by Casting Crowns. I encourage you to search it on You Tube and listen to the entire song: “Spend all my time dreaming what the future’s gonna bring, when all of this time there is a world passing by right in front of me. Set my sights on tomorrow while I’m tripping over today. Who says big things are somewhere off in the distance. I don’t want to look back and see all the times that I missed it. I want to be here and now, starting right here, right now; with the very next words of love to be spoken, to the very next heart that’s shattered and broken; to the very next way that You’re gonna use me. Show me the next thing. I’ll do the next thing. Let my very next breath, breathe out a song of praise to you; with my very next step be on the road that was planned by You. Lord wherever You’re leading me; that’s where I want to be…I’ll do the next thing.”
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525