Commentary

Dixil Rodríguez

is a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain living in Texas.

Searching the Obvious — Why I Search

I walk through the curtained hospital trauma room immediately aware that I have taken a step back, surprised. What are you doing here?

* * *

Early morning, my friend, Una, and I serve breakfast. Here, on their way to a school, children stop to have breakfast inside a small church kitchen. Volunteers provide humanitarian services. They prepare lunch and pack dinner for the children. In the evening, as we clean the kitchen area, Una shares her experience: “Has everyone forgotten to help God’s children? Hungry? I know what hunger feels like. Slow at first, but it makes you desperate, forgotten. There’s pain; they need a little help. Is it not obvious?”

That’s part of the obvious: often we cannot see it up close. Like the hunger Una felt; after weeks it has become so desperate she only sees pain, need. Less obvious: the Holy Spirit inspiring hearts and minds to help comfort one another, moving human hearts to goodness, into a partnership here: all accounted for, none forgotten. After a reflective silence Una searches: “I am discouraged and need God to fill my cup. He sees this need. He has not forgotten me.”

We hold our cups high and ask God to fill them: “quench the thirsting of our souls” and provide “bread from heaven” to feed physical and spiritual hunger. Why do details of a big picture become elusive?

A month later I receive a postcard from Una, now directing a local meal project in Texas. Life got busy and we lost touch.

* * *

I chart my last visit. I usually do not volunteer on Sundays when there are essays to grade, grants and writing to edit. Last week I longed for Sabbath hours to arrive. My soul felt every minute of the week with enormous challenges and unexpected trials. I discovered my naiveté at the cruelty of others and issues of slander and religious freedom. I remember the early morning alarm ringing and simply falling to my knees in desperate prayer to begin the day.

Sunday morning. I welcome the offer for chaplain visits. The day moves quickly. As I open my locker to collect my belongings, I remember what’s happening in my life. I catch a glimpse of a photograph in the locker: Una and I inside the small church kitchen. Forgotten. I should have listened to Una: “I feel forgotten.” What was obvious then feels far less obvious today. At this moment I feel hunger.

Dear God, my cup is empty . . .

I immediately feel the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit as I remember details, a lifetime of loving care from God. His grace and mercy remind me: I am evidence of amazing miracles. He watches me every day! To trust and wait on God is to void out the noise of the world, leaving all my burdens in His hands.

I am jolted by the ring of the trauma pager. One last visit. At the unit, I hear whispers: vandalism . . . kitchen explosion . . . surgery. Five minutes before surgical transport, I walk in as the patient extends a hand toward me.

“I’ve been praying for you,” says Una.

Once I was asked: “Why do you search the obvious? Why examine the daily life for evidence when there is faith?” When the world is wrapped in darkness, there is a light that remains, emanating comfort, love, hope. To see it through tears, frustration, despair, hunger is a challenge. So it is to be that light for others. Our journey is not easy. What a heavenly gift to know we do not walk alone, not for a single moment.

To search is just beginning. There is more.

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