When the world becomes complicated and painful, what’s the role of a pastor in the lives of his parishioners?
Bishop James Greenleaf and his daughter Grace fundamentally disagree over that question. That tension rises to the fore when a couple who belong to Calvary Fellowship World Ministries call Grace to the hospital. Their son, Joshua, was born prematurely, at 25 weeks. The child faces many challenges, including a malrotated bowel, which occurs when the intestines are twisted in utero. He’s been in and out of hospitals ever since.
After Joshua was born, the doctor said that, if he lived, he would continue to have major problems. Joshua’s father wanted to spare his infant son a lifetime of pain. His mother, however, wanted to do whatever it took to keep him alive—which was only reinforced when the bishop told her that it was all a part of God’s plan.
Grace believes that, in his way, the bishop is giving the family false hope, which will lead to more pain. As Joshua is rushed into surgery once again, Grace and the bishop have a hard conversation about what pastoring really means.
“Don’t go tell them everything’s going to be just fine, please,” Grace says.
Surprised, the bishop says, “I’ve never told anyone anything that absurd in my life.”
“Okay, but you’re going to tell them that God has a plan for that boy, for the family, that his eye is on them,” Grace says.
“Which is true,” the bishop says.
“Daddy, don’t give them hope.”
“Because it hurts.”
“Where is this coming from?” the bishop says, becoming impatient with Grace.
“The father told me yesterday—” Grace starts.
“Gigi,” the bishop says, interrupting, “that man has been beset by a spirit of despair since the day he was born.”
“Just, just, listen to me…for once,” Grace says. “Just pray that God’s will is done. Don’t pray for health. Don’t pray for safety. Just…just pray for God’s will. Please.”
The bishop looks taken aback. He collects himself and, before proceeding to find and attend to Joshua’s family, says, “I can’t promise you what I’ll say, but I assure you I will listen for the Spirit’s say-so, as I always do, before I utter a word.”