Faces of Jesus: Mikey
I wake up early Saturday morning and it feels like God is saying, Take your guitar, go to the hospital and play ‘Because He Lives.’
I pick up my hymnal and flip open to page 213. ‘Because He Lives’? God, I don’t even like this song. Growing up, we always sang this song like a funeral march. Way too slow. Like Jesus was still dead. Are You serious?
The feeling won’t go away.
So I go to the hospital, guitar in hand, hymnal in a bag on my back. I walk through the main entrance, up to the elevator, push the button and get in. The door shuts.
Wait a minute! God, I don’t even know where I’m going!
I check the circular buttons. Well, 5 is my favorite number… So I head up to the fifth floor.
The doors open and I find that I’m in an awkward hall: two sets of big, thick doors, and a couple couches by a window. Now what?
An elderly couple comes up in the elevator behind me. “Oh, are you here to play a song?” the lady asks.
“I guess. A hymn, actually. Just don’t know where I’m going.”
“Sounds like you need some direction from the Man upstairs,” the gentleman raises his eyes toward the ceiling and chuckles.
They walk away, and I head back down to the first floor to talk to the person at the information desk. “Good morning,” I say with confidence. “Could you please tell me what’s on each floor? Baby Delivery, that kind of thing.”
“Are you seeing someone in particular?” she looks over the rims of her glasses at me. “Because you can’t just walk around, inviting yourself into rooms, violating patients’ rights to privacy.”
“…right,” I nod back. Okay, God. Now what?
I turn around and bump into this dude from church. Thirty-something. Big, red beard. Soft-spoken. Wearing a hospital uniform. “Dude, you work here?”
He explains that if I want to play, I should talk to the head of the volunteer department and become a volunteer.
She’ll be here on Monday.
Great… So then what am I doing here today?
Still feeling like I need to play this song that I don’t even like, I get back into the elevator and decide to sit on one of the couches and play the song over and over until someone invites me into a room. It’s now around ten o’clock. I crack open my hymnal and chord out the song, writing notations above the staff and thanking God for my old music theory teacher, Mr. Palmeri. I then begin to play and sing, quietly. It is a hospital.
Around the seventh time through, I begin to feel a moderate fondness for the song. I’ve even added a walking bass line. It’s not so bad if you don’t drag it to death. But… I still don’t like your second verse. So I sing the first verse and the chorus as background music for every hospital employee who comes walking by, waiting for the elevator.
Wondering what I’m doing here, I call my in-laws and explain my situation. Any advice? Prayer? My father-in-law says, “Call Norm. Maybe he’s still in the hospital.” He gives me Norm’s number.
“Hello, Norm? You don’t happen to be in the hospital right now, do you?”
“No, I checked out yesterday.”
Yesterday! You gotta be kidding me! Am I a day late??!!
Norm asks why. I explain. Norm says, “Let’s pray and listen.”
“Okay.” I take one last look out the window at the trees below, ready to go home.
Norm starts busting out this super prayer about someone getting the whole gospel message, and I’m thinking, I’m just here to play a song, but, sure, yeah, that’s fine.
Norm trails off. I guess he’s listening.
“Are you getting anything, Dave?”
“Is there a room 536?” Norm asks me. “I’m seeing the number 536.”
I glance up at the wall. The highest room number posted is 537. Huh. “Just barely.”
“Why don’t you go see what’s going on in room 536?” Norm pushes me along through the phone. “Call me back when you’re done. We’ll be praying.”
I step up to the double doors. Okay, God. I needed an invitation. I’m calling that Your invitation…
The doors swing open easily. To my right I can see room 537. Down at the end of the hall, 534 and 535. Where is 536?
Leaning against a door frame in the hall stands a security guard. Big. Burly. Punjabi turban on his head, black beard on his face. I’m still looking at him, thinking, so I don’t hear the nurse the first time when she says, “Can I help you?”
I make eye contact with her and then realize she has already spoken and I need to find the question in my short-term memory. Can she help you? What can you honestly say to that? “…I’m looking for room 536.”
“Oh!” she brightens and turns snappily around. “Mikey, you’ve got a visitor!” she calls out, disappearing into the room right next to the security guard.
I follow the nurse quickly into what I now know as Mikey’s room. Sure enough, 536. The nurse pulls aside Mikey’s curtain, letting in the sunlight from the window. “Hey, Mikey,” I say casually. “How you doing?”
The nurse leaves.
Mikey looks at me, his face saying, Who are you?
But I stay calm and ask if I can sit down for a minute.
“Yes,” he says simply.
All my training to be a chaplain back in Connecticut suddenly kicks in. I get it that Mikey has had some kind of head trauma, and the security guard posted outside his door is there because Mikey gets violent.
Mikey’s staring at my guitar.
“I’m here to play a song. Can I play you a song?”
And so I play. And sing. “God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus, He came to love, heal, and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon, An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.” I breathe. Made it. Now the chorus. “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.”
Now it feels like I’ve done what I’ve come to do. But it also feels like the door has been kicked open in front of me. “Mikey, have you ever heard that song before?”
“Have you ever heard that story before? Have you heard of Jesus?”
I don’t doubt it. He’s young enough for the story to not have been part of his culture. “Can I tell you the story of Jesus?”
As soon as I’ve asked, I realize I have a Gideon’s Bible in my backpack. “Say, would you like a Bible?”
“The story of Jesus is in the Bible.” I begin to explain. “The Bible tells us how God made the world, and everything was good, but we chose to disobey God and things went wrong. Then God starts talking about how He’s going to make it right again. God has a plan to stop evil and save us. He takes a long time, giving people visions and dreams years in advance, telling them that Jesus is coming. And then Jesus comes…”
Mikey’s listening, but once I get to talking about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Mikey is in pain. He’s rubbing his feet together, saying, “Ow! My feet! My feet hurt!” He’s not screaming, and he’s not pushing his call button, so I pause.
New feeling. I’m supposed to pray for this guy? Are you kidding?
I wrap up Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and then say, “You know what, Mikey? Jesus healed people all the time. And He still does today. Would you like to pray for Jesus to heal your feet?”
Wow. Okay, Jesus…
“Sometimes Jesus touched people. Can I touch your feet?”
I reach out my hand. By now, I’m expecting electric shock-type tingling to come racing into my hand on contact. I close my eyes and say a blink of a prayer. “Amen.”
Mikey looks at his feet, then at me. Then back to his feet, curious. “It’s as easy as that?”
…I guess so. Yes. “God loves you, Mikey. Jesus loves you.”
A different nurse comes in, busy as a Canadian beaver.
I take my cue to leave.
“Will you come back?” Mikey wants to know. He holds the mini Gideon Bible in his hands.
Ah, an invitation. I wink at Mikey. “I will try.”
“And bring your guitar…?”
35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me…
*Because He Lives, song by William and Gloria Gaither