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Companion on the Way

Companion on the Way

James 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

My faith journey with Grandma began decades back when I was a television reporter in Los Angeles. I was assigned to cover the impact of the Iranian Hostage Crisis on a local family. My coverage focused on Nazarene pastors Earl and Hazel Lee. Their son, Gary, was one of 52 Americans held captive in Iran. The Lees’ authentic faith ultimately inspired me to submit my life to the Lord who had carried them through 14 agonizing months. God used their witness and the relentless prayers of Hazel’s mother, Estelle, to speak to me.

“Grandma,” as she bid me to call her, sat quietly in the corner of the parsonage living room, observing every interview. She always seemed preoccupied with a knitting project. It looked like an afghan, but she was secretly stitching a net of grace to catch my wondering heart. It worked. Shortly before Gary and the rest of the hostages were released, I attended worship at Pastor Lee’s church. The reading of Isaiah 43:1-3 that morning pierced my guarded heart. Moments later, I stood among my colleagues and silently surrendered my soul to Jesus Christ. No words were uttered—just a tearful acknowledgment that I had made an idol of a consuming career and desperately needed God’s help to change.

Much of that help came through a faith friendship with Grandma.

Grandma understood, like John Wesley, that her task was “not only to bring souls to believe in Christ, but to build them up in most holy faith.”1 To help build my faith, she suggested we read through the Bible together, exploring the meaning and context of each passage. We each committed to pray and to read the same chapters of the Old and New Testaments each day, recording fresh insights and questions to discuss.

Grandma’s humble reliance on Scripture and her attentiveness created a safe space to ask questions, express doubts, and even vent unholy attitudes without immediate pushback. My young faith thrived in this shared pursuit, but it was also tested to the core.

A year after becoming a Nazarene, I felt the need to expand our church’s ministry to senior adults. Convinced this was a “God thing,” I took classes in gerontology, wrote up a proposal for the ministry, and presented it to Pastor Lee. He listened and, to my utter surprise, replied, “No!”

“Why not?” I said.

“Can’t say. I just have a feeling.” he replied.

I left his office deflated and confused. “Why the hesitation?” I grumbled.

Weeks passed, and my frustration simmered into resentment that I freely shared with others. This divisive behavior deeply grieved Grandma. She considered keeping her distance and letting my disobedience run its course. Instead, she called me over and lovingly “let me have it!” She said the only cure for carnal pride was crucifixion, offering my bitterness and my self-centered heart to God. I knew she was right, but I went home and continued to stew.

A few days later, Pastor Lee called and asked if I would be available to help Kyle, an older, terminally ill cancer patient, clean her home. I reluctantly said yes and drove to the church to pick up custodial supplies. I remember Pastor Lee standing at the curb with a vacuum cleaner, mop, bucket, and towels.

Not only did I clean Kyle’s home, but I eventually cleaned her . . . I fed, bathed, and clothed her. News of my “new vocation” spread, and another senior citizen called for help—then another, and another. And in the routine of a most humbling work, I was filled with remorse. One morning, while cleaning a kitchen floor, I asked God to forgive not only my sin but the rebellious inward bent that spurred it. All that I knew of myself I laid at the cross for whatever purpose God wanted.

Paid or unpaid, title or not, I was at God’s complete disposal. 

When I told Grandma, she erupted into joyous praise. She then suggested the first act of my entirely sanctified life should be an apology to Pastor Lee. I asked for and received his forgiveness and continued the cleaning ministry for several more months. It helped finance my first seminary classes. More importantly, it fitted my soul for holy service and ushered Grandma and me into a new level of honest accountability.

That memories of Grandma’s transparent love continue to influence every aspect of my life as a wife, mom, now-retired pastor, and friend. While ours was a rare, grace-filled bond, I believe God intends His Body to be filled with similar friendships where shared significance and accountability abound.

Janine Metcalf is a retired Nazarene pastor, evangelist, and former Associate Professor at PLNU. She currently cares for her 95-year-old mom with skills gleaned from caregiving for others decades ago.

1. John Wesley, The Letters of the Rev. John Wesley, A. M., ed. John Telford (London: Epworth Press, 1931), 5:344-45, Nov. 4, 1772. 

Holiness Today, Sept/Oct 2021

 

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