Thursday, February 09, 2006
My grandmother was a very strong and capable woman when I met her. She did all of the work in the house: she dusted, cleaned, cooked, washed clothes, bought groceries, and took care of her brother, who was her company for many years. My grandmother was also very sick. She suffered the typical diabetic complications, such as hypertension, heart disease, and other disorders, which I don't even remember. Over time, my grandmother's health worsened, causing such discomfort and stiffness, not to mention lack of energy, that she could not move voluntarily without great pain. My grandmother's state of health along with her incapacitation was very hard on my mother and aunts who were used to this very strong figure in their lives. When my great uncle died -- grandma’s brother -- the grief she experienced caused her to have a stroke. Thus she became bed-ridden until her death.
I had the privilege of witnessing the care my Mom, aunts, and cousins gave to my grandma. It was similar in the way she cared for them when they were young. Making sure that my Grandmother was not exposed, my mom, and other available family members lifted her from the bed and put her in a wheel chair. They were there to groom her and that entailed putting her in the shower (on her shower chair) and bathing her--daily. In addition to giving her a bath, they dressed her, combed her hair, brushed her teeth, and manicured her nails. Despite the constant care, of course there were occasions when my grandma soiled herself. When that happened, my mom or aunts cleaned her and changed her clothes just as they would a child. Growing old can be so painful for all involved. Until my grandmother died five or six years later, this was the daily routine of her children--bathing, dressing, feeding and tending to her daily living care needs.
There was nothing glamorous in caring for my grandmother's needs. And it was a big sacrifice for my aunts, but especially for my Mom. Since we lived in the house, she carried much of the burden (I was too young to be of much help.) My Mom and aunts chose to care for my grandma because they loved her -- she was their mother.
For an undetermined amount of time, my mom had to relinquish the dreams and plans she had for her own life to care for her mom. So while others enjoyed themselves taking trips to the Mall, while they went to the picnic at the beach, or engaged in other pleasurable activities, my Mom was home caring for Grandma. You see, although my aunts took turns with grandma's care on the weekends in order to relieve my Mom for a few hours, they were able to come in and leave after the weekend was past. My mom and I lived with my grandmother, so my mom had primary care of grandma daily, five days a week, and the burden was heavy to bear. For my aunts, the inconvenience was too much, and the level of commitment too big. As a result I often overheard them complain; and this is what I came to understand: it was basically one of three motivations that caused them to care for my Grandma. The first reason was because it was the right thing to do, the second reason -- guilt -- played such a strong role, that it was a thing that could be felt. The third and perhaps the most motivating reason of all was, "what will others say about us if we don't take care of our mom?" While none of these three motivations seem exemplary reasons to take care of a family member, and certainly none is the reason we'd like anyone to care for us, no one is exempt from experiencing these feelings. Thus none of us has the right to be condemnatory. We must realize that although my mom, aunts and cousins allowed pitiful reasoning to motivate their works of charity, they were behaving according to the same sinful human condition that you and I have inherited. As such, without a Saviour, you and I would do the same and perhaps worse, given similar circumstances, and opportunity. It is entirely possible that either you or I might have put grandma in a nursing home.
You know, Romans 5:7 and John 15:13 say this, “for scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” And, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." This of course is not only the Greek description of love, it is the one which most of us ascribe to as the greatest demonstration of love -- the giving up of our life for some worthy individual or noble cause. Yet, this is not at all the type of love that Christ enjoins that we manifest to others. His love is described thusly in John 13: 34, 35, "A new commandment I give unto you, 'That you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.'" "By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love one to another." So, if we as human beings often fail in the course of our daily duties to live up to our own grand human description of love -- which is fallible, and selfish, how then could we possibly think we could imitate God's great all encompassing unselfish love? It is impossible! The only way to act on this love command, is to receive the thing commanded -- Agape love -- as a gift. There is no other way!
No matter how lofty our human adage may sound -- dying in the place of one who is worthy -- the law demands more than that. According to Matthew 5: 43 - 48,
Matthew 5:43 You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
Matthew 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
Matthew 5:47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The only kind of love that would make us beneficent to those who hate us is Agape -- the unconditional, self-denying love of Christ. It's true, many parents really do care for their own children, they sacrifice immensely for their well being, and want the best for them. However, how many parents would willingly do this, if they knew that their beloved little Johnny will kill them when he comes of age? Many children today do just that -- whether in a fit of anger or through planned revenge, they kill their parents, with many feeling little remorse. So the question remains, would most parents be committed to raising little Johnny if they knew he was going to kill them when he grew up? The question can also be applied to spouses. Would a potential husband or wife still choose to become one with his or her spouse-to-be, knowing that once married, the spouse will be unfaithful and make the union a living hell? While we are not advocating marrying anyone the Lord does not have for you, scripture does tell us that Agape seeks not her own.
Contrary to our human reasoning, God loved the human race even knowing that most of us
would reject Him and throw His love back in His face. Romans 5: 8, 10 says it best:
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Very likely, any plans or dreams God had after we sinned, were put on hold to save us from our wretched lost condition. This is probably especially true of Christ who became the Incarnate One, clothed with divinity and with the likeness of sinful flesh. He gave up not only the hope of eternal life for the opportunity to save us, but the spiritual form He had prior to taking on the likeness of our sinful human flesh. Never more will Christ be as He was prior to the incarnation. During His 33 year sojourn here, He, imbued with His Father's permission, and the Holy Spirit's power, carried the burdens of the world, and lived a life of pure inconvenience, degradation and extreme poverty. The cross He carried during His life is well beyond the burden any spouse or child could ever give us. It is beyond the pale of any inconvenience we could ever suffer. You know, 'ingrate' is what we call a person who does not appreciate what the things we do for him or her. Are we ungrateful to God for the sacrifice of His son? He deeply desires us to respond to Him with heartfelt gratitude, appreciation and praise for His sacrifice. When your name is called in this great Day of Atonement, will there be written by your name, 'ingrate?' Or will He say “he has loved as I have loved Him."? Friends, the choice is yours.
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