Chronicles of the Agape House: The Longest Night

    Shortly after opening the Agape House, my nursing assistant called out sick so I had to work the night shift. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was inexcusably short-tempered and rude to our first patient, Jim.  
     Jim was 6’3”, 280 lbs and bed-bound, no small task to change his depends, pajamas and sheets while he remained in the bed. In fact, it was similar to a Houdini trick. This dreaded night was even more difficult as he had diarrhea and the trick had to be mastered many times.
     Blame it on fatigue, about 4:30 in the morning, as I heard the bell, again, I staggered to Jim’s bedside. I tried to keep my voice steady, “No, really it’s okay. It’s not your fault. Roll over to your side please. Your bottom’s really getting red. Let me get you some cream. . . Okay, now for some fresh sheets. . . ” 
     It was a long process, a repetitive routine. Jim must have noticed my annoyance because he began apologizing. I tried to assure him that I didn’t mind. But the truth was, I did mind. And worse, it showed. I thought I would vomit if I had to change one more diaper. Jim sensed this in my touch and in my tone. 
     After tucking him in, as I walked back to the office, hot tears  surfaced. I had never experienced such fatigue. Every muscle ached. My body seemed to scream, “Enough !”  
     My prayer for strength quickly turned to whining, which deteriorated into bellyaching and collapsed into an absolute pity party. Fortunately, I was the only one invited. I have a graduate degree. I’m a professional! Why am I cleaning dirty butts? I’ve been awake for over 24 hours and nobody cares!  Woe is me. . . woe is me. . .  I’m the only one on earth who cares. . . 
   In the middle of my pathetic droning, I remembered a poem I had read years earlier. I was so touched by the poem that I created a pattern and cross-stitched it with the hope of one day hanging it in my office.

I Wonder
You know, Lord, how I serve you
With great emotional fervor
In the limelight.
You know how eagerly I speak for You
At a woman’s club.
You know how I effervesce when I promote
A fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm
At a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder
If you pointed to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled woman
Day after Day
Month after month
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew.
          Ruth Harms Cakins  

     Sitting at my desk after my disgraceful breakdown, I recalled the poem in detail. A poem about an anonymous servant . . . how ironic that I cross-stitched it with the intention of spotlighting it on the wall of my office. Self-defeating and hypocritical. God must grow weary of my stupidity. As I prayed for forgiveness and sincerely asked God to give me a compassionate attitude, Jim’s bell rang . . .  again.
     This time my voice was lighter and my touch softer as I changed and repositioned him. I made a joke about his derriere favoring a bright red candied apple. He retorted, “Well then kiss my aa. . . ple.”   We both laughed and as I tucked the quilt around him, he touched my hand and whispered, “Thank you.” 
     I kissed his forehead. “No problem, if I am ever as old as dirt like you, I hope someone will be there to clean my aa. . . ple.”  
     He smiled.
     As I checked on other patients, a quiet inner-voice reminded me that it’s not about me. Jim had been a successful engineer. He built bridges and traveled the world. Now, he was helpless, completely dependent. As hard as this was for me, it was clearly far more difficult for him. How challenging it must be for a patient to be courteous when he is slowly losing his pride and dignity. It’s obviously more difficult than being a caregiver.
    I would like to say that through that long night with Jim, I learned my lesson once and for all. But sadly, I’m a slow learner, and so I’m constantly being mashed and put back on the Potter’s wheel. At least I’m a little more pliable for the Master’s hands now.
     Just so you know, Jim remained kind and warm until his passing. He modeled how a strong, respected man should face his last days . . . with grace and dignity, and even a little humor. I still can’t see a candied apple without smiling and remembering sweet Jim.


  1. And again, the tears flow! You are the epitome of grace & dignity and allow us to see the very human side humanity.

    Thank you Susan.

    1. You're so sweet, Tamara. Thank you for your kind, affirming words.

  2. As Tamara, with tears flowing forth from my heart I can so relate to your thankful for the long-suffering of Christ for us ...who are as you stated "slow learnings"....I know the hands of the potter so well....he has yet to grumble b/c I had to be brought down to simple clay again...he will much joy said, "OH I know what is just perfect for you my darlning clay"....I just discovered your blog today and so thankful I did, for your message is so inline with the message the Lord is giving me today for this day...One day at a time!

    1. I'm so glad you found me as well. Isn't it awesome when God affirms His personal message to us through multiple sources. I look forward to getting to know you through this blogging world.

  3. This is wonderful, Susan! As one who worked a lot of 12 hour night shifts and knows well that fatigue you felt, I want you to know that you are not alone in this battle- whether in the middle of the night or not! It's easy to be a "servant" when you're rested and serving in a dignified way that comes with lots of praise, but not as easy when you're exhausted and have no audience but God.

    I hope you're agent is finding you a nice publishing house because you will make a terrific author!

    1. Thanks for your empathy, Bonita.I know that you truly "get it" since you've had similar experiences. I had to do some re-writes, but hopefully, publication is in the near future. I appreciate your well-wishes and prayers.

  4. Seriously girl, you can write! :) I enjoyed this so much! I love your honesty and transparency... keep learning how to serve, it's one of God's greatest gifts to us! -Blessings girl, Amy
    p.s. How the heck did you find me anyway?

  5. Wow! What a wonderful look into a servant's heart. It's not always easy, but I believe we are most like Christ when we're serving! Thanks for sharing the the way, I loved the aaa....ple!

  6. Hi, Susan, and thank you for your honest, open spirit! Your story uplifted me today (as your stories always do)! Have a happy week, sweet friend! Vicki

  7. I'm glad I found your blog today, through a comment you left at Hope Whispers. Your poem that you remembered touched me immensely. God bless all those anonymous servants!

  8. Learning to be a servant is no easy course.....I've taken it many times over the years and still seem to be at the entry level....

    You are one amazing woman....You write with honesty, transparancy, and give a lesson all at the same time...I never tire of hearing your stories.....thank you for sharing them with us...

    Hugs to you my friend,

  9. I applaud your honesty. I have attended more than one pity party in my life and I always regret having been so quick to accept that invitation. I, like you, continue to pray for more patience and compassion. Thank you for this thoughtful and convicting post.

  10. Isn't it wonderful how God sends us messages in many different ways just when we need uplifting and/or need some Fatherly advice? I am thankful for His patience and grace when my heart is not in the right place. :)

    I love reading of how you so lovingly give of your self and serve with a heart full of love Susan!

    Blessings and hugs sweet friend,

  11. I can so relate. I've had my Jim's during my nursing career too. But so many times I'd remember that I wanted to do everything as unto the Lord. Whether it was cleaning an older person's bottom or holding the hand of a distraught patient, I'd pray for His strength and patience. I too had my times of losing it.

    And now as I work with little children, I get to sweep floors after their snack time. I held one child as he had projectile vomiting and cleaned and comforted him afterwards. I have to remind myself of how Jesus would act. We are His hands and feet in this world.

    I had the opportunity to meet Denise of Refine Me this weekend as she was opening a new store in my area. What a fun time we enjoyed! Your name came up as she loves your blog. I have been so busy moving so although I subscribe it's been some time since my last visit. How thankful I am to be here reading this story of Jim. I have 25 years of stories dealing with cardiac patients, many of whom I sat by their bedside as they died. You inspired me before to write some of their stories and I've had some nudging from Denise too. I love how the Lord uses different people to encourage us. Thank you and keep on sharing these stories. I will visit more often.

    Blessings and love,