By ANNIE WESCHE
Out of the midnight darkness came the weak sound of what had quickly become a familiar plea in my ears. “Annie?”
There in the small, humble room that barely fit a hospital bed, dresser, nightstand, and one very rickety recliner, I pressed my eyes shut at the sound of my mum’s call as my shoulders fell with weariness. She had endured brain surgery and a debilitating stroke which had weakened her severely. Her needs were many, and the long night hours seemed to shine a spotlight on every single one of those needs — a scratch between her toes, a hurting arm that couldn’t move itself, pillows that needed shifting … and shifting … and shifting, fresh ice packs for her head, repositioning her body each time she was uncomfortable, too many blankets, not enough blankets, and nurse call buttons … all of which seemed to happen on a steady rotation throughout the night.
My love and gratitude for my mother had only deepened in the past two weeks as our family walked through her sudden cancer diagnosis, brain surgery, and the resulting stroke. And when we learned that we’d need to temporarily move her into a rehab facility, I had no question in my mind as to whether or not I’d stay there with her. Any measure in which I could bring a lightness and comfort to the suffering she was enduring was the longing of my heart, and I genuinely loved being able to care for her and simply be with her. I couldn’t imagine how difficult those long nights would feel for her to be alone in a strange place — especially at such a difficult stage of recovery and without the nearness of those who love you. So, that rickety old recliner at the foot of her bed became my temporary office and sleeping spot for nearly three weeks. I took the night shift, while dad and others took the day shift.
But on this particular night, at the sound of her familiar plea, I hesitated. I was tired and frustrated. I wanted a reprieve. We were only two hours into the long night ahead and I’d already lost count of how many times I had gotten up from my work to help adjust Mum in bed or scratch the itch between her toes. It wasn’t that I was frustrated with Mum. I knew that she was doing all she could do, and trusting me to do for her what she currently couldn’t do on her own. And what an honor it was to be able to pour back into her life a small measure of all she had poured into mine all these loving years. I was irritated by the itch that would not be appeased, and the ice bag that melted too fast or leaked, and that pillow that slid from its perfect position too easily. Couldn’t we catch a break somewhere? The constant interruptions and problems mounted as the night wore on, and I could feel heavy frustration beginning to affect me.
“God, this is unbearable!” I inwardly cried out. “We can’t keep this up all night long — she needs sleep so her body can heal, and I need to work!” But just as quickly as I cried out, His unexpected and gentle answer came in just two profoundly powerful words: unto Jesus.
Unto Jesus! I whispered. The moment those two words touched my soul and rested on my lips, it was like a refreshing, mighty wind blowing through my weary body and driving out all the heavy weight of frustration and irritation. Those two beautiful words completely shifted my attitude as I could hear my Lord say, “Will you get up every time as if it were for Me, Annie? — My itch, My ice pack, My pillows, My plea for help?” My eyes filled with tears, and I couldn’t keep back a smile as I realized how quickly all my frustration had melted away in light of His great love and worthiness.
As I quickly got up to attend to Mum, I saw that the shift of my motivation — doing it as unto Jesus — was the very thing I needed to actually love her better. And I saw that these two words were a precious gift from my loving, Heavenly Father who didn’t want to just remove the challenges for me, but cause me to become an overcomer in Christ Jesus in the very midst of the challenges. And from out of my weak life, shine forth His strength.
Yes, gladly, for You, Jesus! Each itch that needs scratching, each long night-watch, each continual interruption, each hardship, each change in my life plan, each future uncertainty … You are worthy of my hands opened wide in joyful surrender, doing the next thing in front of me — whatever it is — with all my heart, as unto You!
In the many days and nights that have followed since our stay in the rehab facility, we’ve done away with the ice packs and, to both God’s praise and our joy, Mum can now scratch her own toes. But the Lord has shown me countless new moments to whisper “unto Jesus” and, by His grace, shift my mindset from a response of the flesh to one walking after the Spirit. I will readily admit that my heart is not always quick to say it, and there have been challenges harder than others in which to declare these words. But each time that I have truly surrendered my will and sincerely declared, “Unto Jesus!” I have seen His grace come flooding in with the power I need for that moment.
Dear sisters, we will never exhaust the Spirit’s supply of all we have need of in Christ Jesus! What a marvel that is! I know how easily I can forget the strength that is there in Christ, available to me as a daughter of the King, but my prayer recently has been that God would permanently rest these two beloved words on my tongue, ready to declare them with each new struggle, challenge, difficult person, wearisome task, life change, or uncertain future (and not to forget every success, victory, and blessing too!) — remembering that He is both our motivation and our supply for everything we will face.
So, want to join me? Whisper or shout it out — whichever your situation may call for! And may these two words never lose their power to move our hearts to swift, joyful action — for His joy and for the glory due our precious King! Unto Jesus!
…inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40 KJV
…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…