A lady from Germany reads my blog occasionally. Through one of her comments on my posts, I followed her link back to her website. It was written in German! I noticed my name and the title of my blog within a string of otherwise incomprehensible-to-me words, and so I copied and pasted a portion of the text into one of those translator sites. Not thinking I would ever read her words she'd written something like this, "Linda Born has helpful things to say about caregiving, if you can get past her conservative religious perspective."
I had a laugh over this, but my next thought was a hope that if anyone who reads my words needs to get past my faith perspective in order to receive the help and encouragement I have to give, that they can do so. Indeed, it is my prayer!
That said, here is my word to you today; don't let shame over dark thoughts keep you from the sustaining, forgiving presence of the Lord. It's not that He loves you despite the sin, but rather that He loves you enough to have provided an escape from the sin. That way is forgiveness. If we don't acknowledge the sinfulness of the negative feelings of resentment, anger, and even hatred, we instead justify those dark feelings by saying that the person who is the target of the dark thoughts deserves them. An Alzheimer's patient is a victim. The old adage "Do not blame the victim" comes to mind.
I've had some very dark thoughts of late toward my mother. Yes, I have in my heart of hearts wished for this trial of caregiving to be over. Nearly seven years of my life have been given in service as a caregiver. The emotional and spiritual burdens of the time have thus far outweighed the physical work of caring for Mom. I've read the experiences of other caregivers, and I am aware I could have it much much worse. Although it has happened occasionally, I have not routinely had to change adult diapers or scrub bodily fluids from the floor or linens. But, I do bathe my mother, provide all her meals, and carry out housekeeping chores for her. She sometimes expresses gratitude, but just as often she is somewhat demanding. My heart takes a daily beating. I can't be gone overnight or even for an evening out without making special arrangements for her.
I'm not always nice to her. Although I know better than to try to reason with a dementia patient, sometimes the injustice of my situation overwhelms me and I try to explain to her why she can't have unlimited crackers and pretzels (she has a bad knee and is overweight), or that the fact that I forgot to change the date on her whiteboard doesn't mean that she is being mistreated. Sometimes she acts as though she is in a luxury hotel and that the paid help is not providing the expected level of service. At those times I feel like her servant rather than her daughter. It is hard to be nice. It is hard to be Godly. It is especially difficult not to react to her negative behaviors with anger and a raised voice, and then later to suffer overwhelming guilt. She is completely dependent on me for all her needs. I am the one who carries all of the power in our relationship. I determine what she eats and when, what she wears, and how much social interaction she will receive during a given day. It is always a sin to misuse power one carries over someone else.
But through all of this I have a deep knowledge that my negative feelings don't remove me from God's love for me. By continually bringing my resentment, anger, and yes, my sin into God's light, I've been able to accept that while I am not perfect, God is yet able to minister through me to meet the needs of His beloved Anna Ruth. I have been aware throughout this caregiving journey of how precious she is to the Lord. This awareness of the incomprehensible value of my mother's life in God's eyes has been the motivating force behind my willingness to continue to provide her care beyond the length and breadth of human love. And it is my confidence that He loves me with the same intensity that He loves my mother. This assures me that He does not forget me. He's asked this service of me, He has provided strength and resources, and He will see me through it.
My dark thoughts are not acceptable, but they are forgiveable!
So are yours.
Scripture: Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will rescue me...the LORD will perfect that which concerns me" (Psalm 138:7-8 NKJV).