The Man in Room 3330
(excerpt from Chapter 1, “Identity: Settling Who I Am and What My Life Is About” The Christian Man [Zondervan, May 2019])
Word had spread throughout the hospital about Ken, the upbeat eighty-year-old man in room 3330. His buoyant, cheerful attitude was infectious among the hospital staff.
One morning, a doctor appeared at the door of his hospital room and read his chart. After looking it over, he said to Ken, “I wonder if I could talk to you for a minute.” He was not one of Ken’s doctors.
“Sure. What’s on your mind,” Ken replied.
He said, “Well, I’ve heard about you around the hospital, and I’d like to know how it is that you, at your age and with the difficulties you’re having, can be so upbeat and cheerful?”
Ken answered, “I would be happy to tell you, but first you tell me, how do you find your enjoyment?”
“To tell you the truth,” the doctor said, “I really don’t have much enjoyment. I had a plane, and I thought that would do it. But that didn’t work. Now we have a boat, but that doesn’t seem to work either. I’ve got a big income. That’s really brought me no lasting satisfaction. To be completely honest with you, nothing I have ever done has brought me much satisfaction.”
Ken said, “I know what you’re going through. In my lifetime, the only thing that I’ve ever found that has provided me any lasting peace and satisfaction is a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
About that time, Maria, a Hispanic housekeeper about fifty years old, entered the room. Ken had spoken with her on several previous occasions. She wrung out her mop and started working on the other side of the bed from where the doctor stood.
Maria was the lowest-paid person in the hospital. She would have to work for the next twenty years to earn as much as this doctor would make in the current year.
Ken said, “Maria, can you come here, please?” She looked up, and her peaceful countenance radiated sunshine throughout the room. Then Ken said to the doctor, “I want you to look into Maria’s face. She has what I’m talking about. Do you see it?”
The three of them fell quiet. The doctor looked into Maria’s face. Ken and Maria alternated glances between each other and the doctor. Ken could peer into the doctor’s heart. Yes, this doctor saw what Maria had. It was transparent that she had the missing thing for which he had been searching. It was clear that he wanted what Maria and Ken had found. It was a poignant spiritual moment.
“Maria,” Ken finally said, “are you a follower of Christ?”
It seemed impossible, but Maria beamed even more broadly and said, “Oh yes, I love my Jesus Christ.” Ken thanked her, and she continued with her chores.
The Day That Changed Ken’s Life
Over the next fifteen minutes, Ken told this restless doctor that many years before, he had felt exactly the same way—no lasting peace, only short bursts of satisfaction, and no real sense of who he was or what his life was about.
“One Monday morning,” he said, “I cried out to God to come into my life, forgive my sins, and give my life peace and meaning. Blinded by tears, I had to pull over to the side of the road. That morning, I put my future in the hands of Jesus Christ and asked him to show me how to live.
“All I ever asked him to give me was peace and joy. He answered my prayer, and that’s why you’re in here right now trying to find out what’s going on. But it’s not my peace and joy. It’s the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit because of Jesus Christ.
“In five more minutes you’ll be gone. Tomorrow I’ll go home, and we’ll probably never see each other again. But before you go, let me tell you the one thing that can help you. If you want what I have, what Maria has, then sometime today I want to encourage you to go find a quiet place and cry out to Jesus Christ. Tell him what’s in your heart. Ask him to forgive your sins and surrender your life to him in faith. Settle it. Then you will have what Maria and I both have.”
I am an eyewitness to Ken’s life. We had lunch together every week for thirty-two years, and though he was thirty years my senior, we were best friends. Ken was not a “big man” in the way the world defines it. He was an ordinary, everyday kind of guy—a paint salesman—who found his greatest joy in giving his time to God and helping people.
Ken’s secret was that he had settled it—who he was “in Christ” was who he really was. He was a disciple of Jesus disguised as a paint salesman. As a result, he was able to live a passionate life for the glory of God until he took his last heroic breath.
What could be more desirable? No doubt that’s why the men who helped storyboard The Christian Man picked identity as one of the ten issues they most want to settle.