COULD SMELL HER BEFORE I SAW HER. IT WASN’T THE SMELL OF an unwashed body or of dirty, sweaty clothes. It was the smell of a body diseased from the inside out.
She was only 41 and had small children, but she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. There was no doubt. She was in continuous pain. Yet somehow, in her unfortunate state, paradoxically dying with each heartbeat and every breath of air, she still held out hope of living. She refused to accept the obvious and placed only one goal before herself—she would live. Things would be normal again. She turned the key on acceptance and locked herself into the closet of denial.
She entered the consultation room clothed in a simple, worn dress. Shoulders bent, she stepped quietly into the room and sat in the chair in front of the doctor.
She came for hope. For life. For a second chance. For more time. Somehow she didn’t understand she was dying. Or perhaps she simply refused to accept it.
“I’m saving up my money so I can travel to Lima,” she said firmly. “There I can receive an operation.”
My heart broke as I looked at her. Although given a death sentence, she was endowed with a will to live. Her eyes met mine, and she smiled.
After a short examination, the doctor jotted down a prescription of vitamins and iron. Palliative care. We couldn’t do more. Then she was gone.
As I pray that her short contact with us mirrored a few rays of Christ’s love into her heart, I realize that the most important healing possible isn’t what we can or can’t do for the body—but what Jesus can do for the soul. It’s easy for me to look at the dying woman and feel pity for her physical situation, but I myself can be in the same condition spiritually—a plight more dangerous than physical death.
The woman taught me a powerful spiritual lesson. I realized she’s not the only one who is diseased inside. I too have refused to accept the obvious, blocking my mind to evident sins in my life and locking myself into the closet of denial. The dying woman’s passage through my life cracked the door of my soul enough to allow the light of confession and repentance to flood in.
In my mind I enter the heavenly consultation room, my heart adorned with stains. Shoulders bent, I step quietly into His presence and kneel before the Great Physician. I’m here for hope. For life. For a second chance. I see clearly that I’m dying spiritually. I know that palliative care isn’t enough to reverse the disease. I need a complete renewal from the inside out. I must be washed in His blood and forgiven.
His heart breaks as He looks down at me, a sorry specimen of humanity, yet with a desperate desire for renewal and forgiveness. His love and acceptance fill my empty soul as He reaches out and touches me, and I feel the deep scars in His hands. His eyes meet mine, and He smiles. I’m forgiven. Forgiven from the inside out.
Jenni Goodwin, a nurse and paramedic, is coordinator of Touch of Love, a nonprofit ministry of ambassadors medical outreach and relief projects in northeastern Peru.