“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation.” ~ Romans 10:9-10
All photos by Dana Hoggard Watkins
Aydin, at 71, rests in a hospital bed. He’s just come to terms with an incurable diagnosis. It will take his life in days, if not, weeks.
Nabal is a Christian pastor, who for the last 40 years dedicated his life in service to the Lord. He’s led many flocks, built many churches. He updates his resume twice a year with an endless list of accomplishments for which he’s tirelessly worked. There’s a kingdom to build out there, and it requires a lot of work.
Circumstances prompt a meeting between the two men in Hospital Room 2008, and they form a kinship.
In the precious days to follow, Aydin opens up to Nabal. He describes a life of regret. Booze. Women. Foul language, and everything else you can throw into the kitchen sink. Aydin wishes his time had been more well spent.
But Nabal replies with a message of hope.
“What’s important is this moment,” the spiritual veteran says. “Have you made the decision to acknowledge Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life? We can say a prayer right now and your scarlet sins will become white as snow.”
“I’m not ready, but maybe I will be soon,” Aydin replies. “I just need to think on things some more.”
Good News: Aydin now owns his sins and shortcomings.
No-So-Good-News: He’s still got baggage, and he’s carrying it around. Everywhere. And it’s heavy.
And so Nabal plants a seed. In the waning hours, the seed takes root, and grows in Aydin’s heart.
Days pass. Friends and family come to Aydin’s bedside for what everybody knows may be their final visit. The times are pleasant, good memories shared. There’s even laughter, and everyone who leaves Hospital Room 2008 senses something different. Something they can’t quite comprehend.
Despite the dire circumstances, Aydin seems relaxed, peaceful, happy, and not quite his former self. There’s a newness about him. Transparency. Freedom, if you will.
Three days later, something rouses in Aydin’s spirit. His new-found freedom stirs thoughts to acknowledgement, and acknowledgement, to action.
Aydin tells his faithful wife of 47 years he wants to be baptized.
And so Aydin’s wife, beside herself with joy, calls Nabal requesting that he come to the hospital right quick. No explanation of why. Just come, Nabal. Please come.
Nabal puts it on his list of priorities, but first preaches his Sunday sermon because he carries an obligation to his flock. He’s been charged with a duty he takes most seriously, and first things first.
He rushes through the normally relaxed three-point message, shakes a few hands on the way out and heads directly to Hospital Room 2008 where Aydin awaits.
Aydin’s faithful wife, meets Nabal outside the door.
“He wants to be baptized,” she says, smiling, knowing nothing else to say beyond just that.
“That’s wonderful. Praise the Lord,” Nabal replies, all the while, Aydin awaits anxiously in the bed inside Hospital Room 2008. “We’ll make the arrangements.”
“No, you don’t understand,” she says. “He wants to do it right now. He’s asked the entire family to come and witness, and everyone’s on the way.”
And Nabal goes silent. It’s a long silence before he offers a reply.
A baptism’s not possible in Hospital Room 2008, he says, because the Bible specifies the proper procedure, and it includes a “full-immersion.”
Aydin’s wife looks confused.
“We don’t care about the full immersion,” she says. “A sprinkling will be fine. He just wants to make the public profession of faith, and everyone’s on the way.”
“But he can’t be fully immersed,” Nabal responds. “I don’t conduct baptism with a sprinkling, or anything short of full immersion. It’s our doctrine.”
“But this is just for him,” she says. “It’s what he wants, and we don’t know how much longer he has left. It’s time.”
“I can’t do it,” he said. “He can’t be fully immersed.”
And Nabal returns to his home, and his flock. And he never sees Aydin’s family again.
Four days later, Aydin died, but he’s never been more alive.
TOMORROW: “The Parable of the Enlightened Church.”
For related posts see:
Forty Things You Feel 40 Days After Your Dad Dies
It always saddens me to find the Pharisees are still alive and well in our Christian churches. (It saddens me further when I find them lurking in my own heart.) We are studying Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God”, and if you are familiar with it you will notice that your two characters represent the two sons well. Rejoicing that one who was lost and dead was found and lives!
Thank you for sharing this story.
Aydin should have called my husband, he would have baptized him. And, actually, if someone is dying, the faith allows for anyone to do the baptism. That was just wrong of Nabil.
this is going to be out of the blue, but I am living here on an Exchange and snagged some of your pictures for postcards I am sending back to Canada. Hope you love it here in Ecuador- so far I have loved it. I live in Manta, and if you want to ever sit and have a talk in English I would be happy to do so.
All the best,
please don’t let the weirdness (yeah that’s a word) of this post overshadow the message!
No weirdness taken. Between setting up 2 new companies, working for existing clients and preparing for the physical move, I’m consumed at the moment, so if I forget, reach out around Jan. 1. I’d love to visit with you, and expect to be in Manta frequently. Thanks for your comments. steve
Karen: I’m a big fan of Keller’s work, and read that book about a year ago. And no, I hadn’t thought about it but you’re right! Thanks for your insightful comment, and for taking the time to do so. … steve
🙂 Thanks, Holly. We did actually get another pastor in to conduct the Baptism – not that I believe it amounted to a hill of beans either way, other than it was important to my dad. That day was perhaps, the most profound of my life. Thanks for taking time to comment. … steve
Oh my, it was your dad. I wasn’t sure if the story was fictional. God is always bigger than man, but committing yourself to Christ like that is a huge deal and your father wanted that. I’m disappointed in that pastor who believes the amount of water trumps the sacrament itself. wow.
January 18, 2012. Perhaps the most defining day of my life. Any time you see me write a “parable,” ,,, and you’ll see it a lot more in the future …. it’s based on fact, usually with names changed and that’s all. I VERY rarely change the context.