How to Visit, Despite My Own Excuses
Visiting (the sick, widows, shut ins, etc) is something we all know we should do. I think about verses like
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ ~ Matthew 25:36
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. ~ James 1:27
They are sometimes uncomfortable to read. We (I!) like to make excuses.
Well, that’s the preacher’s job. After all, that’s why we pay him.
Our elders are really good at visitation. They are keeping on top of it.
That’s just not my “talent.” I can find other ways to serve the Lord.
I am in such a busy season of life. I will visit when I have more time.
But, I think we know in our heart of hearts, that these are not “reasons” – they are excuses. Visiting is a vital task for each one of us Christians – in large part because we in turn will at some point be “visited” (after giving birth, after being in hospital, after moving to a new area, etc.). But also, simply because, the Lord tells us to.
And in turn, I think of my influence on my kids. Do they see Christianity as a responsibility I slough off on other people? Do they see me only serving in ways that are easy – never in ways that are uncomfortable or that make me grow or humble myself? Do they see me saying “I’ll do that tomorrow” when I could simply give up something less eternally important to do it today?
So, how can I visit – today? This week? How do I fit it in, while juggling my schedule and little kids? How do I teach my children the importance of practically and thoughtfully serving others by visiting the sick and widowed?
Remember that it doesn’t have to be for a huge stretch of time.
The thing about visiting people who are sick or in hospital is that they simply don’t feel well. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have to have surgery or go to the emergency room! So, keeping your visit short (10 or 15 minutes at most) is not only a relief to you (and your wiggly toddler and curious baby) but also a blessing to the person you are visiting.
Have something in hand to give
Somehow, going to see someone can just be a little… awkward. Having a purpose – or at least something in hand to give to the person – can ease that transition. Sometimes, after a surgery or a loss, you might bring a meal (just double whatever you are making for dinner). But it doesn’t have to be that labor intensive. Lonely and sick people love to be thought of and remembered – and if you have a little person, you can easily “make” something for them – a coloring page, a finger painting picture, or anything else they enjoy. While they are working on their art, talk about the person you will go visit. Explain how they are sick or lonely and how this special craft will really cheer them up and make them feel better.
Make the journey the adventure
One of Gideon’s favorite things to do is visit the hospital. (No, I am not kidding!). He loves to drive in the “tunnel” (parking garage). He loves pushing all the buttons (there always seem to be multiple elevators). And, he loves helping me push his baby sister in the stroller. It is SUCH a long walk to get from the parking garage to the person’s hospital room that most of our time is spent expending energy (stomping down echoey hallways, meandering past interesting statues and fish tanks, and of course, saying “hi! Hi! Hi!” to everyone we meet on the way). I try to reward him with a snack and a book while we are in the person’s room (because when left to his own devices, he is inevitably drawn to the big red buttons!) and I remember to keep it short. The bulk of the time spent then is not necessarily on the visit but on the walk and adventure to get to the hospital room. It’s good for all of us to get out and enjoy the adventure as well as the visit.
Give yourself grace
It is hard to learn any new habit (why do you think so many gym memberships never make it past January?). This habit is like the rest of them. There will be times and seasons when other things must come first. Allow yourself the grace of not giving up. Of not considering it a failure simply because it didn’t work this week or this month. Of not letting discouragement win. None of us are perfect and none of us have it all figured out. We all need grace – from each other and from Christ.
So, don’t despair if you don’t feel like you’re “good” at visiting. Because, you see, you never know how the Lord may use you to touch someone else’s life. You never know how the Lord might use one of your children to touch someone else’s life. Allow Him to work through you.