Saturday morning, when I got up , I walked out of my parent's guest bedroom and out into the dimly-lit hallway. Early-morning light was beginning to sneak into their house but it was struggling to do so. A big stretch of this old body of mine was next on the list as I tried to get the kinks out of my back from our 8-hour drive to Michigan the day before.
There was a light on in the living room. I could hear the faint reports coming from CNN as my mom and my dad sat watching the news. No one else was up. I stood there for a moment, unnoticed, and gained some insight into what it must be like for my mother each day, living quietly with her husband of 60+ years . . . and with the disease that is attacking his mind . . . Alzheimer's.
In many ways I think Alzheimer's disease is more cruel than a simple death. When some one dies, they are simply gone but you remember them as they were. Usually whole; somewhat vibrant and cognitive. But with Alzheimer's it's like the person we remember is not even with us anymore and has been replaced with someone else who walks and talks like the person we knew, but they struggle to remember who WE are. Alzheimer's Disease provides us with constant opportunities to think about "what used to be" and "what could have been."
My parents switched off the news and began to work on a jigsaw puzzle. My mom liked jigsaw puzzles back in the day - the harder the better. These days they stick mainly to 100-piece puzzles. My mom assembles the border while my dad tries to complete the inside. It takes them a while but eventually they get there . . . together. My mom offering suggested puzzle pieces along the way.
"Try this one. That's right. Just rotate it a bit. There you go!"
I used to wonder how God could allow such a disease to effect the people he supposedly loves. The same could be said for cancer or AIDS. God could eliminate them with the wave of His hand if He wanted to. So why doesn't he? A couple of verses come to mind . . . and a concept.
"The poor you will always have with you." - Matthew 26:11
Why? Why would Jesus say that? I suppose the same thing could be said of the sick. Illness and disease will always be with us. Why? I believe it is so that God can be glorified when he heals or so that He can use the disease to develop character in us. Why else? Population control? I don't think so . . . which brings me to my second verse.
"God wishes that none should perish." - 2 Peter 3:9
If God truly wishes that none should perish, then why are there diseases that cause death? These are good, logical questions that many people ask. Many people choose not to believe in God for this very reason. And this is exactly where my concept comes in.
The problem with us humans is that we spend an incredible amount of time thinking about ourselves. It's all about us. My young friend who got hit by a car last week . . . why was that allowed to happen?
We have to start seeing things through God's eyes, not our own. Forget about injuries and suffering and death. Those are temporary. Think eternally! What could someones illness be used for? Well, it could make us run to God for help. We could seek Him out to comfort us our a loved one in time of need. What else?
I suppose God could be using the suffering of someone we love to develop the character in those around Him. Remember, think eternally now. What was I witnessing this past weekend as I was watching my parents assembling a puzzle together? I witnessed the never-ending love that my parents have for each other. And what was that teaching me? That I should exhibit the same kind of love to the people I have in MY life. Hmm. I am 60 years old and my mother is still teaching me things.
We are not on this earth to live for ourselves. Sure, we're here to learn and to grow. But ultimately we are here for God and for others. Remember the greatest commandment? Jesus' disciples asked him what it was and he said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
It's all about love. We are learning how to love in ALL situations. What's that they always say in wedding ceremonies? "In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part." That is how we are to love one another. My parents love each other in ALL of those ways. I pray that I will learn from their example and follow their leading and love not only my wife in such a way, but ALL those I happen to meet.
"4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8