The Voice

      I recently shed the worst kind of tears--tears of regret. That familiar inner-voice told me to do something, to visit someone, but I muted it. A list of other important to-dos took its place.
     The truth is I didn't want to visit this person. Her husband was a hospice patient and had died months before. While I had visited several times, providing a quiet presence and trying to comfort, I was weary of the depression, her inconsolable tears.
     “You need to visit her,” the Voice whispered.
     “I know, I know and I will. Not today, I have tons of paperwork and a new patient to assess.”
     The next day, the Voice urged again, “You need to visit her."
     “Yes, but my kids want to go to the pool. I need to get home early. I’ll go on Friday.”
     The Voice was silent.
     I called her on Friday morning but she didn’t answer. Relief, I’m off the hook.  
     A few hours later I received the call telling me she had died the night before, in her home, alone. Tears of regret, self-loathing and remorse erupted. Guilt rose from the pit of my stomach. The Voice was silent. Guilt tightened its grip, I cried out to the Voice to assuage my pain, to ease my conscience. The Voice was silent. Guilt smothered me.
    Co-workers offered reassurance, “If you were supposed to have visited, you would have, God was in control.”  The words fell on deaf ears as hot tears continued to fall.  I was inconsolable. I could have seen her one last time. More importantly, I could have the confidence of knowing I listened to the Voice. I knew I had failed. I hushed a Voice that I should have heeded.
     Now, a week later, I am released from my guilt. The Voice has finally spoken. He gave me the image of my patient and his wife dancing in each other’s arms. She looked over her shoulder at me and grinned. I knew what she was thinking. She couldn’t care less if she saw me one last time. She knows it wouldn't have changed her fate. It has, however, changed mine. Next time, I will refuse to mute the Voice. I will listen. I will obey.

I Feel So Used!

           I’m embarrassed to say that at times I can be a bit of a whiner. One day, in my not too distant past, I was wallowing in self-pity.  “I feel so used! God, why do you keep putting me in situations where people are using me?” It was a pretty pathetic display, but thankfully, I was the only one invited to the pity party. As I sat at my kitchen table, tissue in hand to sop up the free flowing tears, I remembered a sermon my pastor preached a few years back and I had to laugh at my stupidity.
     It was during a winter season of my life. You know the times when God is silent. Well, there I sat, arms crossed, feeling dejected, not expecting to hear from God. My ear perked up when I heard the pastor describe me in perfect detail. “Many of you, from an early age, have prayed ‘God use me, no matter the cost, I simply want to be used by you.’ You cried, your mascara ran, and you meant it, and God heard you. Now you same people sit here, years later. You’re whining, ‘I feel so used. . . Why is everyone always using me?’ People aren’t using you!  God has simply answered your prayer. You are being used!”
      Ouch, the truth hurts. My pastor went on to question me, “Do you now have a right to say, ‘This is too painful. You know I really don’t want to be used after all. What I meant to say was, please use me only if it’s fun, or if it’s rewarding or if it offers some recognition.’  No, you prayed the prayer and God has answered.” 
      I went home with a different perspective. 
     Now obviously I don’t believe in being a door-mat. I’m a big advocate of personal boundaries, self-care and all that other stuff we social workers teach. But unlike a lot of my counseling peers, I don’t think I should put me first. In fact, I’m pretty sure Jesus teaches us to put ourselves last. Dead last.  A big fat zero.
     I’m learning to extend my prayer a little. It’s no longer a simple “God use me.” Instead, I pray, “God use me to show others YOUR grace and compassion. Give me a pure heart that desires, above all else, to be a servant as you were. Crush all selfishness. Use me . . .  use me up until there is nothing left but your love shining through me.” 
   So the next time I say, "I feel so used," it won't be a complaint but an answer to prayer.