NOW I BELONG TO JESUS, AND JESUS BELONGS TO ME
Over the years I’ve heard stories about dying patients who’ve called their family, friends, or pastor to be at their bedside before they passed away. But I have never heard one exactly like this. It touched my heart, I hope it touches yours.
A terminally ill man was in a nursing home and his daughter called to ask her pastor if he wouldn’t mind dropping by to pray for her father. The pastor was only too happy to do it and so he was soon on his way. When the minister arrived at the man’s room, he walked inside and found the gentleman lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. There was an empty chair sitting beside his bed. The parson assumed that the daughter had told her father that he was coming, so it appeared that in a very hospitable way the old man had pulled up a chair for him to sit down in.
“Looks like you were expecting me,” said the pastor. “I’m sorry,” said the old gentleman, “But I’m afraid I’ve never met you.” “Oh, yes,” said the minister, “I can understand that. I’m Reverend Foster, the new pastor at your daughter’s church. She asked me to come by and have a word of prayer with you. That’s why when I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I would soon be here.”
“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door, Reverend?” The pastor was somewhat puzzled by the request but did as the old man asked him to do. Then the gentleman called him closer and said, “I’ve never told anyone this before, not even my daughter. But most of my life I never really knew how to pray. I could repeat the ‘Our Father,’ but I just didn’t know how to talk to God. A long time ago when I heard our pastor talk about prayer, it went right over my head. So I gave up trying.”
“But a few years back, one of my best friends and I were talking about prayer and I told him about my frustration in trying to come up with the right words to say. But my best friend looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Joe, prayer is as simple as having a conversation with someone. So when you want to pray, just believe you are having a conversation with Jesus.”
“He asked me to try it. Told me to sit down in one chair, and then place an empty chair in front of me. Then imagine Jesus sitting there listening to me. Tell Him how I felt, what’s going on in my mind and what was bothering me. Be honest with Him, because He can see what’s in your heart anyhow. It seemed a little odd to me a first, but I promised my friend that I’d do what he told me to do.”
“So, I tried it, and I’ve liked it so much that I started doing it a couple of times a day. I never let my wife or daughter see me talking to an empty chair because I was afraid they’d think I had gone off the deep end and have me sent off to the funny farm. So you see pastor, every time I talk to Jesus, He’s sitting there in that empty chair.
The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue talking to Jesus that way. He then anointed him with oil and prayed with the elderly gentleman. He promised to come back again. But if the old man needed him sooner, just give him a call. Two days later, the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that morning. “He died peacefully,” she said. “He even had a smile on his face.” “That’s wonderful,” said the Pastor. “I’m glad he is now at rest with the Lord.”
But before the pastor could hang up, the daughter said to him, “But you know something strange happened when he died. I left the house early before going to work so I could stop by and see him. When I walked into the room he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. He had a big smile on his face. About an hour after I got to work, they called me from the nursing home and told me to come over right away. By the time I got there, he had already expired. But the thing that really struck me odd was that I found him leaning over the side of the bed with his head resting on the empty chair he had sitting there. And it looked like he had been holding onto something and didn’t want to let go.” The minister wiped tears from his eye and thanked her for telling him what happened. As he put the phone back in its cradle, he looked up and said, “Lord, I want to go the same way.”
I’m sure most of us at one time or another have thought about what our last moments on earth will be like. And the older we get the more often it crosses our minds. But you could not ask for anything better than to be holding the hand of the One who will raise you from the grave on resurrection morning as you go to your rest. So if you’ve had trouble praying, why don’t you try what this old man did. Maybe it will work for you too. And perhaps at that same moment, the song we used to sing long ago will be on your lips: “Now I belong to Jesus, and Jesus belongs to me. – Dr. Robert R Seyda