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.