The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 4

“One day I questioned my friend Mary as to where all these bizarre qualities were coming from. She responded, “Do you listen to the pastor speak before the meals at the shelter?” I admitted that I had zoned out during such times. She then invited me to a meeting that night, which would serve my purpose of getting out of the cold and her purpose of introducing me to her Best Friend. So I went not expecting much but my friends must have been praying for me because for the first time I heard about the love of Jesus Christ. About all the suffering He had done for me, even when I still hated Him. This was a man well acquainted with suffering yet He gladly bore it so that I might be saved. I listened to all the preacher had to say and when the alter call was given I went down. I was ready to accept this free gift of eternal life. You see that is what you see in my eyes it is what Christ has done for me. That is the song I sing of joy and thanksgiving. That He has saved me. As the Apostle Paul said, ‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’ That is Philippians 4:12b-13. I have not have the privilege with this new life of learning to be content in living in plenty, as I once lived. But I would not go back to that old empty life for anything. I would only go back to wealth if I could take Jesus with me. I imagine you are having a hard time with all of this Jack, aren’t you?” Jack nodded thoughtfully. “I understand that,” continued Esther, “it was not easy for me to put my head and especially my heart around it when I first heard it. I’ve kept you a long time should you like to talk to me again we can meet here any day at the same time.” Jack agreed that he had a lot to think about and told Esther he would like to meet with her again. With that he and Gab left while Jack’s head was spinning with thoughts.

It was definitely too late for visiting hours at the hospital, but for some reason that was the only place Jack wanted to be with his thoughts. He bid Gab goodbye and walked on to the hospital deep in thought. Could this Christ that Esther spoke so lovingly about do the same for him as He had done for her? He wasn’t so sure; he thought that truly he was different than other people even if Esther and he had come from such similar back grounds. As he entered the hospital he noticed that it was dark, he reasoned that it must be to help the patients sleep. It then occurred to him that in all the time his family had been here the few times that he had visited, he never came other than visiting hours. For some reason he realized he suddenly felt a pang of guilt. He realized that he had been absent when his wife and daughter needed him most. His heart started changing. He no longer felt as concerned with their appearance as he was with their need for him. The thought entered his mind, “How could I have been so uncaring, so shallow.” Then almost immediately came the thought, “Because that is what has always been my way – Oh, what a wretched man am I that I have cared more about appearances than, than, than loving – that’s what has been missing in my life.” Suddenly he felt utterly worthless. How could he be so vile of a man? He had always thought of himself as a good man or at the very least a decent man, but now he was beginning to see himself for who he truly was and it was breaking his heart. What had been so hard was crumbling within him. As he reached his wife’s room he wanted so much to talk to her and at the same time felt so unworthy of her. His beautiful Janet who had been so gracious about his egotism and callousness, how could he disrupt her sleep, with thoughts of his own need to talk to her about all that he had heard and been pondering? He slipped into her room as quietly as possible and yet she stirred and murmured, “Nurse?” “No, it’s me Jack. Do you need me to get you a nurse?” He asked. “No,” she responded, “I just didn’t think it was anyone but a nurse.” “I didn’t mean to wake you. You go back to sleep. I just wanted to be near you.” Said Jack. “Is Julie okay?” “Yes she is fine. I have heard nothing from the doctors to think otherwise.” At this Janet responded, “What has happened to you Jack? You’re not acting like yourself.” “I don’t quite know where to start. So much has happened. I haven’t shared with you anything that has happened since the fire.” “It has been your way not to share anything with me a lot longer than that, Jack. I’m stronger than you know and I care more than I think you trust, won’t you please share your heart with me. This is something I’ve been praying for, for a long time.” “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather rest and sleep?” “Please, Jack, there is a reason you are here and I’ve rested all day and am quite awake. I promise if I need to rest I’ll let you know. Now do we have a deal?” “Yes, we have a deal, but this may take quite a bit of time.” Janet’s eyes twinkled as she  responded, “You have my undivided attention.”