The Pastor awakened to find himself and Jonathan lazily floating about in the white cloud. He welcomed the respite, though his head was spinning.
Jonathan watched the Pastor in silence.
After a time the Pastor spoke. “Amanda became a nurse while I attended seminary. She worked in a hospital of all places!”
“What do you have against hospitals?” asked Jonathan.
“Look, there are things people like and don’t like, and I don’t like hospitals. They give me the creeps.”
“What did Amanda think about that?”
“I think she understood.”
“Did you encourage her in her work as a nurse?”
“Well, I—okay, listen, I’ll be perfectly blunt about it. Her rightful place was at my side—to be my helpmate.”
“A First Lady type?”
“That’s a bit heady, but something like that, I suppose.”
“I believe it,” said Jonathan, “but I think you’re trying to throw me off track. Your dislike of hospitals runs deeper than that—some kind of phobia.”
The Pastor bristled and snapped, “I thought you were a messenger, not a psychiatrist. Besides, we’re talking about Amanda, not me.”
“You are talking about Amanda, but I am here to talk about you. C’mon, let’s take a walk.”
“I don’t suppose you care to tell me where we’re going?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
“I thought you’d say that.”
They walked in silence for sometime. The cloud was thinning and new surroundings came into view. At first the Pastor could only make out that they were in a very large room. Then he heard people singing Christmas carols. A moment later the Pastor discovered to his displeasure that he was in a crowded hospital ward.
“How can you do this to me?” he berated Jonathan. “I just told you how I feel about hospitals!”
“How can you face the realities of the future if you can’t face the realities of the past and present? Just relax, Pastor. Look around.”
The Pastor’s forehead was damp with perspiration. A warm flush had come over him and he felt faint. What he saw only compounded his discomfort. Beds with wounded soldiers lined the long, white walls of the room. The foot board of each bed was decorated with a Christmas wreath. Christmas cards were displayed here and there on bedside tables and taped to the walls. All the patients were young men, many of them amputees.
Looking at the maimed young men, he said to Jonathan, “Vietnam. They’re so young, just boys. Wounded and maimed for the rest of their lives. What tragedy. What terrible, horrible tragedy! They’ll never be normal again. Their lives are ruined.”
He looked at the maimed young men. “Vietnam” he said. “They were so young, just boys. Wounded and maimed for the rest of their lives. What tragedy. What terrible, horrible tragedy! They’ll never be normal again. Their lives are ruined.”
“Not necessarily,” said Jonathan. “With Christ’s comfort and healing they can be brought into wholeness in Him.”
The Pastor looked incredulously at Jonathan. “How can you say that? You just can’t spiritualize away their wounds! These men have lost limbs that will never be restored! Some have been blinded. Some have brain damage. And all of them have emotional wounds.”
Jonathan thought for a moment, then choosing his words carefully, said, “Consider, Pastor, that beyond that vast area of reality which your eyes see and your ears hear, there are hidden dimensions of God’s love and compassion and wisdom.”
“That’s true, of course,” said the Pastor, “but—”
“By faith you entrust the healable to the Lord, now, by faith, entrust to Him those who appear unhealable.”
“I...I suppose you’re right.”
“Wounds are interesting,” Jonathan went on. “Some heal well and some don’t. A wound that heals properly leaves a scar that is stronger than the original tissue. It’s kind of like that with emotional wounds. For some people scars produce hard hearts, while for others they produce strong character. Wounds, whether physical or emotional, sometimes serve as instruments of brokenness—to draw a person out of a self-centered life and to bring them closer to the cross and the comfort and healing of Christ.”
“I’ve prayed and prayed for healing,” said the Pastor, “but....”
“Don’t ask me,” snapped the Pastor. “Forget I mentioned it. Look, why don’t you just ask one of those boys. Ask if they have prayed for their pain and suffering to be taken away. Ask them if God has heard their prayers.”
“He has heard their prayers, Pastor. He loves them each and every one, just as He loves you. And His grace is sufficient for them. Some have already entered into His special rest, and I pray that the others will choose to follow. As for you, Pastor, you face that choice as well. If only you would let me help you.”
“If you really want to help me, then take me back to my study and leave me alone!” With that, the Pastor turned for a farewell glance at Amanda, who was care for a bedridden soldier.
Jonathan began to sing his ballad:
His ears could hear,
But deaf was his mind.
His eyes could see,
But his heart was blind.
The song agitated the Pastor all the more. Out of spite, he kept his back turned to Jonathan. He knew what his obstinacy would cost him. Sure enough, Jonathan was already raising a glowing finger heavenward to summon back the cloud.
Continue to Chapter 12 >
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