Stories of Grace | The Game is Not the Point
“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”
We’re playing Bingo, and the caller announces “B 4” into the microphone. I’m tempted to crack a lame joke and respond, “Before what?” But I resist.
It’s Friday afternoon and we’re at a session of Bingo at Bayview Retirement Community. Three gals in their twenties, two baby boys in their onesies, and a table of aging seniors with varying, but mostly limited, communication abilities—really, a table of adopted grandmothers for our sons. Oh, how they love our boys.
It started off pretty easy: two mamas with a sleeping baby in each stroller, helping seniors through the game of Bingo. Perhaps there was an occasional nursing session or a wheeling of the makeshift crib to calm the cries. But there was always a guarantee of adult conversation and the biggie: a reason to get out of the house.
As our babies grew, our Bingo play cards reduced from two, to one, to none. Our ability to help residents through the game followed a similar drop, though we are somehow able to improvise a tag team dance of kid-watch along with the help of the Activities Coordinator and a friend who joins us monthly. What started as a relaxing, adult-focused outing while our babies snoozed has morphed into a monthly rhythm that requires a determined and patient heart. I get out of my house to perform a workout of sorts that requires entertaining a curious toddler for two hours amidst Bingo calls, wheelchairs, and so many things he can’t touch. I am no longer just helping residents complete a game of Bingo, for the person sitting next to me actually has a complete Four Corner Cluster and we both forgot to call it.
But I’ve realized: the game is not the point.
When we enter the activity room on these Friday afternoons, the residents do not light up and smile because they think they might win a round of Bingo with our help. No, the game is not their joy; rather, seeing our boys is their joy (and sometimes they like hanging out with us, too). There is a lady who smiles, lips closed but eyes bright, every time she sees my son, Oliver. We always introduce ourselves. He waves, and she looks at him with adoration. After roughly eight visits, I was sitting at the table with Oliver in my lap. He had a toy and was seconds from squirming out of my hold and onto the floor to grab the microphone cord when from across the table she said it: “Oh, I know him!”
It was the first time I had heard her speak. She remembered us. She knew us.
God, could you work in her heart to know You, too? Could we aid in that introduction?
The hope was that this would be missional somehow. Since our community visits monthly, we ladies with weekday availability thought it would be helpful to also attend these Friday Bingo sessions. Another chance to get to know the residents, to deepen relationships, to be a help, and ultimately to share the love of Christ. While I’ve yet to navigate how to craft simple (and loud!) truth statements about God to seniors who have sadly lost much of their ability to hold a conversation, I hold out hope that something we are doing here is speaking of God’s love for them. I do know that we are helping to love and recognize a group of individuals often overlooked in our city. For God instructs us to love the widows and orphans, the vulnerable and down-trodden.
If an opportunity did arise where I could speak of Christ, perhaps the connections would be more quickly made. As they have seen us enter into their lives, they could see how Christ, the holy and eternal God, has entered into our human, mortal lives on earth. As we listen and play and assist, drawing near to them, perhaps they could know that God draws near to us. He is always present, ready to welcome and re-welcome sinners into His care.
So we continue with these Friday Bingo sessions at Bayview, two toddlers in tow. We have no idea what we’re doing, but we desire to love those that Christ has placed around us. We know God is continually shaping our hearts to love others more—especially those unlike us—and to depend on Him for all those awkward and inconvenient moments of service. Amazingly, he might use us to bring the good news of Christ to those in this nursing home. He may yet bring salvation to an old sinner.
It is not easy to love and serve the oppressed and the downtrodden. It can be hard, awkward, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. But there are so many groups of people in our city who need to experience the love of Christ. What would it look like for you to serve as He has served us? Who is in your life that may be overlooked or unloved, and how can you begin to look and love on them? May we be an encouragement to one another as we draw near, pray, assist, serve, and yes, play Bingo.
– Beth Boyd, DCC Member