Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sharing the Lord's Perspective...

I love my mother. There is no one else who values her human life more, and no human being will grieve more when she dies. There is, however, someone who holds her life, her human, temporal life, more precious than I do; but He is not human, He is God.

We human beings tend to place more value on the life of someone who is a productive member of society than we attribute to that of an elderly person. Christians tend to share this perspective. When we visit a nursing home we might question the Lord; if we are headed to an eternity with God in a far better place, why linger? I was less than a year into caregiving when I began to wonder why the Lord had allowed my mother to remain only to descend into Alzheimer's disease. I dreaded and even feared my mother's death, but once I'd read about the final stages of Alzheimer's I didn't understand why the Lord would consider allowing her to stay for an extended length of time if that awful final chapter was all she had before her.

With this attitude I ran into the immovable wall of the Lord's correction. I became aware of His intense love for my mother, and I caught a glimpse of the tremendous value He places upon her life. I understood that He expected me to be His heart and His hands in ministering to Mom's physical needs, and that if I opted out of the assignment He would deal strictly with me because of my disobedience and arrogance.

The Lord sees all of us who belong to Him as being His children. Wrinkled bodies and forgetful minds don't cause Him to place less value on our precious-to-Him lives. I've become increasingly aware that the Lord is much more concerned with the giving and receiving of love than He is with any other human endeavor or accomplishment. He does not judge us by the amount of work we accomplish (or by our money making potential), but by the attitudes of our hearts.

Once, when my daughter was small, she asked me if our dog Rusty could read. I replied, "No, Honey, he can't read."

She thought this over and then asked, "Well, if you worked hard to teach him could he learn to read?"

Again, the answer was, "No." She thought this over carefully and then inquired, "But does he understand love in his heart?"

Yes, Rusty understood being loved. In fact, the canine ability to offer unconditional love is a reason often cited for owning a dog.

Now if one of God's creatures can be valued highly simply for giving and receiving love, why are we so ready to dismiss our fellow human beings when they lose the ability to pay their own way?

Loving and being loved remain to the last breath, and we who know the risen Christ are assured that love will remain into eternity with Him. I'm praying today for the elderly and infirm. I pray that those of us who still consider ourselves to be productive according to the world's standards will comprehend the precious value of a grateful smile or a squeeze of the hand when words have gone. I pray for grace and wisdom to share the Lord's perspective of my mother.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dare to be Dory

In the wake of my book's publication, I'm experiencing a bit of attention that is the nearest thing I'll see in my lifetime to "15 minutes of fame."

It's excruciatingly uncomfortable, and for reasons I can't fully analyze but are probably not noble; it makes me nervous. In an effort to change my attitude my daughter cited an illustration from the movie "Finding Nemo." Marlin and Dory are trapped in the belly of a whale. Dory's found it great fun to slide down a portion of the whale's internal anatomy and as she rushes down she yells "Wheeeeee!" Marlin, by contrast, is fruitlessly butting his head against the wall of the whale's stomach in an effort to escape. Melinda said, "Be like Dory, Mom. Just relax and enjoy this ride."

I did not point out to her that Dory quite obviously has Alzheimer's disease.

The Lord has issued warnings to me. I am to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, and its ok if I feel fear (See 1 Corinthians 2:2-3). And, I am to guard myself against pride. The Lord's teaching on this subject is this: if I do not seek glory for myself, then I will not be ashamed. And yet He's also made clear to me that I have been set in charge of the distribution of a gift that He has provided to others through me, and that I must not turn away from this Holy charge.

The important element in any Kingdom endeavor is not the person God uses to spread the message, but the message itself. The central messages in My Mom Has Alzheimer's are twofold: 1) There is no obstacle we can encounter in life over which God is not sovereign, and 2) We must give attention to the ways in which we respond to our loved ones who become elderly and infirm. Raising emotional barriers in an attempt to protect ourselves from impending loss results in an impoverishment of our own hearts and those of our loved ones. A refusal to remain emotionally connected to those who are in the process of leaving us makes the final separation more difficult rather than easier.

This morning I wrote the following in an email to a friend:

I get so worried about the wrong things--this morning it is a little money matter that shouldn't really cause me a second thought. There's sin behind this worriment; pray that I am able to rest in the Lord's Sovereign control over my book, my children, and my life. All of those "my's" are suspect; there can be sin lurking in a "my." If all I have and am are His, then I shouldn't have much occasion to use the word "my." If I am His instrument, then I need to think carefully before I blow my own horn!

Please pray for me. Pray that I don't fall to fear of what people think, but keep the Lord firmly in my sights. Pray that I don't fall to the sin of pride. Pray that I fearlessly speak the message with which God has entrusted me on behalf of the elderly who can no longer speak for themselves, and for the caregivers who are battling grief and weariness.

Scripture: "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should" (Colossians 4:4).