He went on to talk about how easing human suffering entails a kind of self-sacrifice that is not deemed wise in the eyes of the world. I relate because my decision to provide care for my mom in my home for eleven long years has sometimes been criticized as being not only unwise, but I have also been accused of being self-serving. For example, a gentleman in the audience of a panel discussion of which I was a member spoke in an accusing, angry way when he said, "Your emotional need to be a martyr leads to a self-sacrifice that is unnecessary. Other people could do just as good a job caring for your mother. And don't you think you do wrong by writing books that advocate others make this same kind of a ridiculous and unnecessary sacrifice? No one should be encouraged to do what you've done."
As I am prone to do when accused, I fell back on the sound basis of every decision I make; "God told me to do it!" And of course, although this is an accurate short answer, it made me sound, if not crazy, then quite a way out on the proverbial limb.
What I ought to have said is this: I never--repeat NEVER--advise that other people follow the path I've taken with my mother! What I do recommend is that you seek medical, legal, and pastoral counsel and then make the decision that is best for your unique situation. For me this translated into praying and asking others to pray, discussions with my mother's health care providers, and seeking the counsel of an attorney who served on the board of an area nursing home.
I explained our decision in my caregiving book as follows:
We truly had an unusual set of circumstances. I am an only child, and so the decision could be made quickly, without the collaboration that is appropriate when several families are affected by any decision that is made. My father had left a retirement fund that was just the right amount to pay for building an addition onto our home so that Mom could have a space of her own, affording our family a degree of privacy. My mother was not delusional or paranoid, and she handed over her finances to me with an attitude that changed quickly from trepidation to relief. She disliked physical exercise and so was not prone to wander away. Her income was adequate to allow her to pay me a small salary to care for her, and this in turn allowed me to cut my teaching job to half time without financial strain. We had not planned for these circumstances, beyond the fact that my father had been diligent to save money from each of his hard-earned paychecks.
I always want to emphasize the fact that the term “caregiver” applies to any individual who feels ties of love and responsibility toward an individual who is infirm. The daughter who visits her mother weekly and manages her mom’s finances is a caregiver. The son who lives across the country but calls the rest home frequently to ask for reports on a parent’s condition is a caregiver. Every situation is unique, but God is Sovereign over them all. My Mom Has Alzheimer's: Inspiration and Help for Caregivers, Bridge-Logos Foundation, 2009, p. 272As I drove home from church today, further thoughts on the perils of being judged a crazy Christian came to mind. Christians know this world is doomed to destruction, and so our goal is not to save the planet, but to save the people who live on it (2 Peter 3:10-12, Luke 4:16-20). We don't strive to bring Heaven to Earth, we plan to escape from this doomed place with as many freed prisoners as we can tow along with us, and then to inhabit the new Earth that God Himself will bring forth at the end of the age (2 Peter 3:13). Our goal is to do what is necessary to liberate those who are bound by the confines of the teachings of this hopeless world into the freedom that is ours in Christ. Although we may be called to ease human suffering, this is something we do that exhibits the overwhelming kindness and compassion of our Lord, and is not the end goal of our faith. Our primary goal is to draw all people to Father God by the power of the Holy Spirit, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19). Our focus is on Christ, and our ears are open to His call. I am aware that He may sometimes call us to gut-wrenchingly difficult decisions. He may very well ask us to do things that appear crazy in the eyes of those who do not know Him well, and thus they think He would not possibly ask us to do outrageous things.
It turned out that the man who accused me was angry with his wife's sister, who had chosen to care for her mother in her home, and had asked him and his wife to help. He felt it unfair that he should be railroaded into spending time supporting someone who had made a crazy decision. I know nothing more about this situation, whether the sister's choice to care for her mother was based on emotion or prayer, avarice or sound counsel. But I do wish I'd recovered myself in time to assure that gentleman that sometimes it is ok to be a little crazy if the Lord is with you in it.