January 3, 2019

Trust The Path

“I have found peace. Please keep my Bible," he says.

Dixil Rodríguez

It is rare to receive an emergency code page at 10:00 p.m. with no room number. At the hospital I am directed to the Cardiology Unit. I stand at the doorway of the room. Lights are dim; a gentleman sits in bed reading a Bible. The patient’s closet is open; a priest’s outfit is neatly hung. Next to the man is a container with ice water for drinking. No flowers in the room. What am I missing?

The nurse tells me that earlier the patient had coded. Since then the patient has been quiet, crying, reading the Bible. His name is Peter.

I walk into the room, closing the sliding-glass door a bit for privacy. I introduce myself. He offers me a seat in a chair next to him. Closing his Bible, he tells me he finally got to Proverbs. Finally got to Proverbs? I glance at the closet. Is he not a priest? He notices my gaze: “Yes, as a priest I could have read the Bible, but other books were placed in front of me: books of policy, traditional rituals—well, I just got to Proverbs.

“I was so consumed with terms such as infinity and eternity. I told my parishioners: ‘This is God’s will’; ‘Trust the path’; ‘Things happen for a reason’; and ‘Your family member is in a better place.’ I had it wrong.”

Peter talks about his failing heart, a boulder of illness blocking his path forward. After much prayer it doesn’t seem God will move the boulder. He is trusting a new path. Peter asks: “What would you do if God decided to not remove a boulder from your path? Are you disappointed? Do you use the time to commune with Him?”

“I have found peace. Please keep my Bible,” he says.

I had never thought of that! I walk to the end of the room, collect a blanket from the warmer. God, how do I answer this question?

Before I can speak, Peter arrives at an obvious conclusion: “Paths are individual. If I trust God, I will wait on Him. I will confess my sins, lie at His feet; His will be done.” I wrap the blanket around him and simply say: “Pray. Earnestly. He is with you at this very moment.” I sit holding his hand, praying quietly, until he falls asleep.

I slip away, find the head nurse, and ask about Peter’s prognosis. “Chaplain, morning won’t find him here.” I return to the room to softly read Proverbs to Peter. He wakes for a moment as the nurse switches IVs and hears me reading. He says: “I have found peace. Please keep my Bible.” He dozes off. I continue reading; tears blur my vision.

Before the sun peeks through the night sky, a code blue alarm sounds in the room. Physicians arrive, and the code blue runs its course. After 45 minutes everyone leaves the room. I stay, remembering the many boulders God moved out of my path. On the horizon God’s work awaits, so I will keep walking. I open Peter’s Bible. Annotations and marginalia fill its pages. A folded page on Psalm 23. Being part of Peter’s journey, I realize it’s not just about “trusting the path” but about “trusting God’s path for us.

The thought lingers as I fall asleep and the sun rises.

Dixil Rodríguez, a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.