I so enjoyed going to the Rise Up Conference. I heard many edifying messages, but I was particularly blessed by Mr. T’s talk on “Visitation” – I’m referring to it here as “visiting” since “visitation” might be a culture-specific term not immediately understandable to everyone. I wrote a two-part series on How to Visit a while ago (linked images below), so let’s say this is Part III.
The Visitation seminar “worked” because Mr. T has major street cred in this department. His recommendations were born from vast experience. He and MMN were the ones who showed up super early at the hospital when H and J had their tonsils out. I was also privileged to receive a visit from Mr. T the first time I was hospitalized as an adult.
I caught pneumonia as a freshman at Georgetown and when I went for an x-ray they saw that my lungs were cloudy. So off I went to The Place’s main hospital and stayed for a week. There was no manual extraction of fluid, so my job was to just hang around, eat things, and get better. I called Mrs. R. from my hospital bed – “Hey, Mrs. R – guess where I am,” I rasped cheekily. Mr. T was in our area that weekend so he came with a bunch of my friends for a brief visit.
The most important notion I gleaned from his seminar was the idea of intentionality in visiting. I’ve thought about it more, and one of the biggest challenges of visiting is knowing what to say.
When I first got sick my friends consulted each other regarding what to write in the cards they were sending me. Sorry, I’m tired and don’t want to think of a euphemism: My brain had just bled and they didn’t know if I’d live or die. Writing a card was the only thing many of them could do (although later, some of them actually flew out to OR to see me – thanks, guys!). I often have trouble wording a birthday or thank you card – so this must have been a real challenge. Just remember, one friend said, you don’t know when the card will get there. Another friend asked Magic B what to write and he just said, Oh, I already wrote mine – I told her she has NO CHOICE but to get better.
Okay, that’s one way to address the situation. I remember poor Magic B was quite broken up the time I caught pneumonia so my brain bleed must have really upset the apple cart. That’s why I told him, Don’t be sad, k? the first time I saw him at church a few days after I flew home.
Anyway, back to visiting…a huge hurdle is “What do I say?” Mr. T recommended that you prepare something to share and be ready to pray together. He also emphasized the importance of being mindful of the time – for someone who’se really sick you could call ahead to see if they’re receiving visitors and reassure the family, I’ll be there for X minutes. That way you won’t overtax the person who’s ill, you’ve set the family at ease by managing their expectations, and you must decide what you want to say in that X minutes. (PS. Visit length is guided by the context and your sensitive evaluation of what the visitee can handle.) IMHO if you’ve got a serious time constraint you’d better not fiddle around – just go straight to the Word bc that’s what they need.
The assumption here is a basic proficiency level in scriptural encouragement. To be able to share something from the Word you have to be in the Word yourself. Ideally, you’d have a variety of things ready to share as the occasion requires. But don’t be intimidated. This is like learning a foreign tongue so you can travel abroad. Impeccable grammar and a broad command of illustrative language are not requirements here – important ideas are often communicated in monosyllables. I’ve advocated being ready to share or read, but I haven’t thought about intentionality until Mr. T mentioned it. I will add, though, that it’s crucial to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. You don’t prepare something and then insist on sharing it regardless of the circumstances (nor was he suggesting that – I’m just spelling it out).
Automatically adapting your own experience and/or what you’ve prepared to share to someone’s situation could be dangerous. Even if you’ve undergone a very similar trial it’s safest to understand that it is not identical and you cannot know what it’s like to be in their shoes at this moment. If your experience really is relevant and you do share, I’d recommend some verbal hedging that acknowledges that your situations aren’t the same – there are likely transferrable concepts but hedging will increase your credibility and the likelihood that your statements will be favorably received.
I hope these posts demystify visiting and help you get started before it becomes a lost art. It’s not scary, I promise! The real starting point is to make friends. That way, if someone’s in a position to be visited you won’t feel weird about it since they’re your friend.
Before I woke up R used to visit me and she’d sit by my bed and whisper, “Don’t be scared, Ning.” (Sniff.) When I started to come around I recognized her from my Monday Bible Study and it didn’t occur to me that this new context was very strange indeed. I forget if I told her this, or if it was just mental, but during all those visits I remember thinking, “I’m glad it was you.”