There was a bit of commotion coming from the corner of the cafeteria. I had my coffee in one hand and an opened package of cookies on the table. I sat there chatting with the two older gentlemen who quickly became my friends. Turns out the coffee was decaf, so it was their lively conversation that gave me a jolt of energy.
The coffee warmed me up though. Because I stayed frozen in the hospital.
Our attention diverted to the corner as there were now two caretakers leaning over the man on the floor. They prompted him to get up, but he laid there almost silent, just a few groans here and there. The older gentlemen gave a sideways glance and went on with their conversation. They’d seen this guy “act a fool” as they would call it.
And today was nothing unusual to them.
The caretakers left the room and the man was still on the floor. He laid in a fetal position with his eyes closed. “Maybe he is cold too,” I thought contemplating hiding under my covers in my room. But I wanted to leave the hospital, which meant no room time during the day for me.
There are some who do everything in their power to stay. This guy was one of them.
He was a tall, lean guy. He towered over me and I’m over six feet tall. I think his afro helped – adding six inches. He walked the halls kind of aloof. Sometimes he would gather in a circle of people. He didn’t join in the conversation.
He would stand there, with mumbling and groaning as his only means of communication. He’d shake his head up and down. And he would stare intently at you like he was reading your mind. His arms would be crossed and he’d raise an eyebrow.
One day, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see my mind-reading friend. He handed me a sweater vest to wear. He had overheard me complain about being cold. I pulled on the sweater over my clothes and thanked him for the gift. All sense of fashion went out the window.
We stood together for a bit. I asked him if he could talk. He nodded, “yes.” I then asked him if he could indeed read minds and he shook his head “no.” He just knew what to do in order to secure his spot in the hospital.
I imagine he was hiding from something or someone. Maybe he was homeless and enjoyed having a bed to sleep in and hot food to eat. He could have been hiding from an abusive person. Maybe he had finally kicked a habit and knew if he returned to the outside world, he would give in. Maybe he was hiding out from an ex-girlfriend.
Whatever it was, he was a decent actor.
The last time I went to the hospital, we watched the Shawshank Redemption. I thought it was an odd movie choice to watch in the hospital. But our caretaker was teaching us about the idea of institutionalization. She explained while many patients wanted to get out, there are some who build relationships and a security blanket preventing them from wanting to leave.
It reminded me of the mind-reader friend. I thought of him and wondered if he ever made it to the outside.
It’s more comfortable on the inside than on the outside. Kind of like the atmosphere we currently live in.
Thinking about hiding, I am reminded of Jonah and the Big Fish. If you remember the story, he ended up in the belly of the fish because he was hiding from God, unwilling to obey His command. Then Jonah finally obeys God’s command after his release from the fish, only to be disappointed when God doesn’t destroy the people of Nineveh like He said.
Oh, the irony. Jonah thought his fleeing would stall the destruction of the people. Little did he know that the people would heed his warning and be spared. God knew this all along.
But the story highlights the compassion and mercy of a forgiving God when His people repent and turn from their wicked ways. It also illustrates that God’s way will prevail no matter how we try to change the outcome.
It makes me wonder how many lost brothers and sisters will repent and end their wicked ways if we simply obey the first time.
I can relate to Jonah in wanting to hide from God. Maybe He won’t notice me and forget about what He’s asked of me. Maybe, I’ll just do a bit here and there to placate Him. Maybe He will forget about it as I wallow in the fear of the unknown.
But you know, God doesn’t forget.
He’s also the master seeker in our “hide and seek” games.
And He has no unknowns.
As I suffer with fear of the unknown, I also fear the known. So when I know the things He asks me to do may “rock the boat,” I prefer to sit in the belly of a giant fish. It’s my form of being institutionalized. It’s comfortable and feels secure.
At times I’ve been afraid to share my stories. Afraid of what people may think or the judgments that may be passed. I feel like these things are known or bound to happen when people speak up for Jesus. After all, we are guaranteed to be hated because of Him (Matthew 10:22).
What I’ve realized is that the process of obedience has made me less fearful. It’s given me a purpose and freedom. Once I started ripping the “Band-Aids” off and following His instruction, my knee bent fears have been straightened.
It honestly feels better to be outside, even if it is uncomfortable at times.
So, I will continue to tell His story. And I will continue to do so until our Redeemer comes for us. Until the very last soul written in the Book of Life has been found.
And I encourage you to strip yourself of comfort and strive to be a character who has hope along with strength and the ability to profoundly inspire those around him.
Even when things get more uncomfortable.
Be a beacon of light in a very dark world.
Rest assured, God will give you exactly what you need to endure.
He gives His people comfort, food and rest to keep going. And sometimes a sweater vest.