Loving Those Who Can't Love Us in Return
Most of us grew up with loving parents. They cared for us, they provided for us, and they loved us beyond our ability to comprehend. But, in our growing up years, we never imagined the day when we, as children, would have to care for them. That’s what Lynne and I are going through right now.
One in three people over the age of 65 develop dementia. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; more than one-third report symptoms of depression.
Both my father and both of Lynne’s parent’s suffer from some form of dimentia, all three in different stages. In my opinion Dimentia or Alzheimer’s is the most depressing of diseases for those who care for them. A variety of emotions fill our days from anger, to frustration, to acceptance. We keep trying to tell ourselves, “those are not the parents we grew up with.” We fight the battle with them, not wanting them to experience the delusions and confusion, but have no control. It changes who we are. So, our only choice is to give it to God, confident that he is in control.
In the words of one very busy businessman whose wife was living with Alzheimer’s, "I have changed. I have become more human." He said that in the middle of the night his wife woke him up. She came out of the fog for a moment, and she said, "Darling, I just want to say thank you for all you've doing for me." Then she fell back into the fog. He told me, "I wept and I wept."
All this makes me think of the story of Jonah. The whole first chapter of the story of Jonah is human action: Jonah makes plans; Jonah has resources; Jonah is going places. It’s all about Jonah. But all of his plans turn out disastrous. Then the storm hits, and Jonah's story finally grinds to a halt. In the second chapter of Jonah, there is no action at all—just prayer. It is only when Jonah hits the absolute bottom that good things start to happen again. Because now, it’s all about God. Jonah comes to realize that what looked so bad—hitting bottom—is actually the best thing that ever happened to him because it has brought him back to a God who is doing great things.
Christ calls us to love people who cannot love us in return. They live in the fog of mental illness, disabilities, poverty, or spiritual blindness. As we serve them, we may only receive fleeting glimpses of gratitude. But just as Jesus has loved us in the midst of our spiritual confusion, so we continue to love others as they walk through a deep fog. In the midst of the challenges of life Jesus comes and says: If you'll let me, I'll meet you at the Cross. I'll meet you at the tomb. The third day is coming, if you'll meet me."
In His name,
Pastor Mark and Lynne will be away February 14th to February 16th to celebrate our niece’s wedding in Richmond, VA. Rev. Dr. Carol Patterson of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey will do the pulpit that Sunday