WWJD (What would Jesus do?) is commonly found on merchandise in Christian bookstores. The concept has likely changed many a person’s actions and has made the world a better place, or at least given many a cause to think.
But I find I want something more than the “do.” I long for deeper; I long for a “say.” What would Jesus “say”? I long for His “say” because it teaches me to listen before I “do” anything. I long for His “say” because so often one powerfully and perfectly placed word can motivate a “do.”
What would Jesus say? For me, thinking about what He might say takes my breath away.
I recently monitored some students as they took a biology test. The room was quiet, and I found myself thinking,
What would Jesus say? I saw a yellow pencil and a pad of pale-yellow Post-it notes sitting on the teacher’s desk, so I decided to write down a few things in God’s Word.
Quietly I began writing “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10) and “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Different verses kept coming to mind. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). I had often read these words, but there’s a big difference between reading and recalling. Looking around the room, I wondered if the students ever wondered what Jesus would say in their lives.
I realized that He knew each student by name, and I wondered what verses they would write down if they were given Post-it notes. After the test period was over, I took my collection of yellow Post-its and taped them on the ledge above my desk, a reminder of my impromptu project. More importantly, I taped them above my desk as a visible reminder of what Jesus has said to me.
One of the most memorable times I have wished for “His say” was the day my 10-week-old baby had surgery. My daughter had not been breathing right since I had delivered her. Nursing was very difficult for her, as was bottle feeding. She couldn’t do either for more than a few seconds without having to take a breath. Nighttime and naptime were difficult because she could not properly fall into a peaceful breathing pattern.
More than once I had taken her in to the pediatrician, telling him that something was not right. Every time I was sent home with the assurance that sometimes babies’ lungs finish developing after they are born. Every night I kept my daughter’s bassinet next to my bed so that I could see and hear her all night, just to make sure she was still breathing.
One night, as I lay in another sleepless, frightened state, I listened to the distressed breathing of my baby and decided I’d had enough. Early the next morning I called the pediatrician’s office, telling them I was coming in. I had decided I would not leave their office without a referral to a pediatric ENT.
The nurse called us from the waiting room and asked how we were. In tears I told her I was worried sick.
“Good morning” came the doctor’s voice as he entered the examination room. I was in no mood to participate in casual conversation, and the tears in my eyes confirmed that.
“Please,” I said, “I am not leaving until something is done for my baby. I’ve been here several times, and my baby is not well.”
“I don’t know what more to do for her, but I’ll refer you to a hospital with a strong pediatric ENT department.”
“My first new patient appointment is in two months, ma’am,” said the receptionist on the other end of the line. “I have an opening on the tenth.”
“My daughter isn’t breathing right. I can’t wait that long,” I said.
“I’m sorry, ma’am; that’s the first opening.”
I phoned my pediatrician’s office and asked to speak with the doctor. They must have known that this wasn’t a “May I take a message?” moment, because the doctor came on the line within moments.
“Let me see what I can do,” he said.
“Please, please” was my only reply. I knew he could cut through the red tape, and I was placing all my hope on that.
The phone rang within a half hour. “I’ve gotten you in this afternoon. Can you and your husband get down there?”
Within an hour of arriving at the city hospital, the top pediatric ENT had cleared her schedule for the day and was preparing to take my daughter to surgery to remove a large cyst from the back of her throat.
The surgery was deemed an emergency, and I found myself swaddling my daughter with a mix of relief and terror as people rushed around me. Paperwork was expedited, vitals were taken, and nurses were coordinating. My husband and I felt totally at the mercy of strangers.
“The OR is prepped. We’re ready to take your daughter to surgery,” said the anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist reached for my baby, and I instinctively brought her closer to me. “May I hold my baby and walk to the OR with you?” I asked.
“You may walk as far as the red line. We must take her from there.” My husband looked at me and we locked eyes, then we locked eyes on our baby. What was past the red line? That’s when I thought,
What would Jesus say?
The nurse must have been a mother, for when we got to the red line she looked at me and said, “I’ll hold your baby’s hand the whole time. I’ll take care of her for you.” I handed my baby over and watched as strangers in scrubs carried her down a hall and through the OR doors. I was scared and exhausted.
Hours later that same nurse found us in the waiting room and asked if I would like to come back into pediatric recovery and hold the oxygen mask for my safe-and-sound baby girl. Of all the things I could ever want to do in that moment, or any moment, holding oxygen so my baby could breathe and come out of sedation was it. My husband and I held hands and followed her.
What does Jesus say when we’re facing a red line in our lives? What does He say when we fear the unknown beyond a red line? What oxygen does He offer us when we need help breathing? Of course, what He says varies with each individual and each situation. But when we hear it, we’ll be able to understand far more than a “what”—we’ll understand a “who”: Jesus Christ.
The final “What would Jesus say?” verse I penciled on my Post-it notes: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).