“Who are you here to see?” the petite dark-haired nurse asked as I sipped tea in the waiting area and scrawled in my journal.

“My nephew,” I answered with a smile. “He’s asleep, though, so I’ll wait.”

“Oh, he really needs visitors. He’s still a child,” she said in her motherly way. Although my nearly full-grown teenage nephew now towers over me when he’s not wasting away in a hospital bed, I still remember his chubby cheeks and legs when I first held him at three months old.

The nurse, like the kindly orderly outside his bedroom who showed me how to wear the plastic cover-all robe, spoke of my nephew with affection. “We’re concerned about him. Some days, nobody visits.” I nodded in agreement, even though he was in quarantine and on chemotherapy, so it wasn’t as though we all could just waltz in at any time.

A little later, during the course of a conversation with my nephew, he gave me his cell phone number and said he’d love for more people to call him. Now, even more than before, excuses seemed feeble. How hard could it be to pick up a phone?

I was sickly as a child and into my teens and twenties, and I remember being confined to my bed while my more robust siblings and friends rushed around enjoying fresh air and sunshine, bikes and playmates. The sense of frustration at my body’s failure to operate properly was pretty hard to deal with, and any visits by people to check how I was doing meant a lot. I certainly experienced feelings of isolation during my illnesses, but now that I’m healthy, I find myself making excuses. “I don’t know him that well.” “He probably doesn’t consider me very cool anyway.” “Why would he want to spend time chatting with his aunt?”

In our modern world of zipping around, trying to balance work and children, housekeeping and pet care, errands and other obligations, we must be living in the most time-challenged era ever. But when we meet Jesus someday, He isn’t going to say, “You were busy, yet you still fit in time to read that great novel or to paint your toenails. Good for you!” He kindly arranged our priorities for us two millennia ago when He said, “I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison, and you looked after Me.”1 Lesser things tend to fall away with that kind of clarity.

  1. See Matthew 25:34–40.