Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

Photo by Dr. Drew Kovach

I think that often in the Christian experience, we ignore the elephant in the room. My father was a minister & both he & my mother served the Lord in ministry for over 50 years. They were not perfect, but an example of trusting God and living what they preached. My father was the same man behind the pulpit as he was at home. He and my mother had the kind of relationship that I naively thought all parents had growing up. They showed love & respect for one another and were each others best friends.

About six years ago, my father was diagnosed with leukemia and given 2 weeks to live. We were all shocked, as dad had been basically healthy most of his life. He in fact lived another 4 months. Mom lived with him in an assisted living home run by a lady from their church who gouged them $4,000. a month financially until dad died & mom was moved to a place closer to my sister for ¼ the price!

No one knows how we will react to our ultimate impending humanity, but I was surprised that after a lifetime of serving God, my father retreated emotionally and never said anything positive about soon being with his Saviour, or his family & friends who'd gone to be with Jesus before him. I did not expect him to be excited to die & leave the earthly family he loved dearly, but it was upsetting to me how he dealt or did not deal with death. He was bathed in prayer by family & friends, and members of previous churches, but ultimately died.

I always felt that when we needed God's grace most, we would sense God's presence in the midst of intense pain and sorrow, but this was not the case with my father's death. God seemed so distant in the whole situation.

My mother had to go to a nursing home recently since she could no longer care for herself in the assisted living apartment she had lived in for several years after my father's death. My sister lives in the same town as she does and does what she can and then some for her. She has had more patience and grace in caring for mom than I know I could, though I love her dearly.

Now, it is hard for me to even dial the phone number to talk to mom as she often talks about just wanting to die, and her failing health. There is never anything that is hopeful or optimistic in our conversation. I try & encourage her, but feel like I am powerless in making her feel better. She also talks about people who help care for her who are unkind or make her wait for over an hour when they say they will be right back.

Mom feels like there are no people where she is living now that are even a possibility in developing a friendship with. Having stayed a week where she lives recently and visiting her for hours on end each day, I can see why she would say that. We would wait at meal times for our dinner to be served and see tables of several people not saying a word to one another and others with their heads hanging down, as if they had given up or were already mentally gone.

Mom recently mentioned that she felt bad that this was how the end of her life has become. I can not help but agree.

I have a friend who is not a Christian who flew thousands of miles to be with his mother who is having surgery tomorrow after falling & his father who has alzheimer's and was just put in hospital as well. It is hard to know what to say to encourage him when as a Christian, whose parents who served the Lord with gladness for a lifetime, also seem abandoned by their God in the end.

The elephant in the room is the knowledge that living for the Lord often does not end in a happier ever after this side of Glory. Christians often ignore this reality. I can not stand hearing Christians who, no matter what you share with them say something like, “praise the Lord anyhow”. Yes, we should praise God for who he is in spite of our circumstances, but that does not lessen the sorrow and pain in our lives & in the lives of loved ones.


Anonymous said...

My former in-laws were missionaries their whole lives. They are now living without being able to pay their bills. Having to receive welfare. The organization that they served with didn't bother to give them a retirement plan that was good enough for them to live a decent life after they retired.

I know a large number of people who gave everything they had to work in missions. Are they blessed now? No! They are poor and many of them wonder where God is after all the years they put in.

I was in YWAM where we instead of investing in our future by getting a solid education, we were encouraged to serve God. It is sad to see how many of us were manipulated in that way.

It is very difficult to start from scratch when you have spend 30+ years in missions.

Anonymous said...

Joey, I really appreciated your thoughts. i too am watching the vitality and and a fun-filled life drain from my parents, and it is a difficult and very sad thing to watch. We can try to encourage, but that is hard too when the situations are dismal. For me, the ONLY good thing that is coming from this is a reality check in my own life....trying to live my life the best I can, and also knowing that someday I too, could be sitting at those dinner tables with my head hanging down. I guess, what I am trying to say is it is helping me prepare for the days ahead.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous #1. I just want to encourage you that I have been in ministry straight for 27 years now. No, there is no retirement plan for me and my family. No promises of a "good life" after I am old. Organizations that run like YWAM encourage everyone to be independent and find their own support, and that does include future (I know many who serve in ministries and also are attending college, and also financially planning for the future - IRA's etc..... I feel so sad that your in-laws did not have that opportunity as they served the Lord with all their heart. I have learned to encourage "newbies" to be responsible for their financial situations now and for the future. Maybe that is something that you can do also - it might help you feel that your in-laws lifestyle regrets can become a great help to others.

Longe Hawaii said...

My sister just called and said mom had fallen at the nursing home & had broken 4 bones in her face! She does not remember how she fell, so I would guess she fainted, like usual. She is back from the hospital. The doctor said that at least she did not do any other internal damage & there is nothing they can really do but put her on pain killers. As if she hasn't had enough to deal with already! Cathy said mom told her to tell me to remember to have fun while I'm young! Lord, have mercy!