Hope for a Hardened Heart

Once a week or so, I take my dog Churchill into a nearby nursing home for pet therapy and evangelism. People who may not otherwise want company from a person often want company from a dog. Though I’m the one with the name tag, it’s Churchill’s name everyone knows.

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 11.31.04 AMAt 65 pounds, Churchill is a big boy. Some people there were once intimidated by his size. One lady would practically plant herself against the opposite wall when we walked by. Now she runs across the hall to him. He’s a celebrity.

Because of my dog, I’ve made many friends there. For a long time, I never believed Dr. A, a retired medical doctor, was one of them. He never wanted us to come into his room, and he was hardly warm when we happened to catch him in one of the day rooms. I had pretty well given up on building a relationship with him for the sake of pointing him to Christ.

Then one day as I walked down the hallway where his room is, a lady stopped me. “That has to be Churchill,” she said.

I noticed she was wearing scrubs, but she clearly wasn’t an employee there either. “Yes, it is. How did you hear about Churchill?” I asked.

“I am a friend of Dr. A’s, and he talks about that dog all the time,” she explained.

I must have stared at her as if she had three heads. “Dr. A in this room over here?” I pointed.unnamed-1

“Yes. He just loves that dog. Make sure you go visit him,” she said as she continued walking.

I stood there for a minute letting it soak in. Then I headed for Dr. A’s room. Sure enough, he smiled when I walked in with my dog. (The prepositional phrase “with my dog” is critical here.) I told him some things I thought he would find interesting about Churchill and actually made him laugh.

Today again I began to walk past his room, noting his back was turned to me and he appeared to be nodding off. But this time it was a staff nurse who stopped me and said, “You’d better go visit Dr. A, even if he is asleep. He loves your dog.” I had heard that before.

He smiled when he saw us and began to share a little about his health struggles. Again I made him laugh by telling him about Churchill.

“He won’t eat when I’m away on my mission trip to Anchorage,” I told him. “My son will have to force him to eat.”

“How convenient,” the doctor laughed.

He looked tired, so I laid my hand on his shoulder and said, “The Lord loves you, Dr. A. You get some rest. I’ll see you soon.” For the first time I saw a spark in his eyes when I mentioned the Lord. My heart leapt with hope.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

I’m not giving up on you yet, Dr. A. And to all of you out there, I exhort you: Don’t give up. You cannot know on this side of heaven the impact you are having in your service to the Lord. Press on, my friends, in the precious and unfailing name of Jesus.

3 thoughts on “Hope for a Hardened Heart

  1. Cheri Henderson says:

    Thanks, Dan! This man is a tough nut. Typically I share with patients and/or pray with them (incorporating the gospel presentation into the prayer, of course), but I haven’t been able to make quite that much headway with this gentleman. But I sense his tough outer shell is cracking just a bit. Pray for him, please – and for me, that I would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and make the most of every opportunity.