Pride and aging parents

30 03 2016

Illustration of the “gospel fractal” on various levels.

Let’s take a snapshot of a disciple’s life to illustrate how the gospel cycle is at work all the time on various levels. As you see these examples which range from extended to instantaneous, you will better understand the fractal nature of the gospel, i.e. the same pattern multiplied over and over in differing scales. I will use my own life as an example. I will try not to belabor the four aspects of the cycle, so I will trust you to think of how surrender, sacrifice, abiding, and manifestation are at work in each example. Remember, all of these may be happening in one person at the same time!

Life-long struggle against pride.

Let’s start with the big picture. I am wired to watch out for myself, think about myself, and gratify myself. I am offended when overlooked, jealous when under-recognized, defensive when accused. When the communion elements come around and the pastor encourages us to confess our sins, the first sin which comes into my mind is my pride. I’m even proud of the paragraph I just wrote!

Obviously God’s desire that I grow in humility is constantly calling me to a place of surrender. This takes the form of confession of my pride and repeatedly putting to death my egotism (without becoming self-loathing, for I am valuable to God as one made in His image). The abiding in Christ takes the form of contentment and resting in who God has made me. I don’t have to compete or win. I am accepted for who I am. When I, by faith, stay in that place of rest, I experience joy deep in my heart. I can love others, and minister to them out of genuine heart. That is Jesus being manifest in me. Resurrection now! (But then there is tomorrow….the struggle will still be there.)

Extended illness of an aging parent.

At the same time one of my parents may be in a stage of declining health which has already lasted for several years and may go on for several more. Maybe dementia has set in and my parent is no longer able to be the kind, responsive person he or she would normally be. There are difficult decision to make about levels of care, dwindling financial resources, sibling responsibilities, and efficiency of caregivers. Maybe a diagnosis is made which requires difficult end-of-life decisions.

This example shows several ways the gospel calls me to honor my parents by loving them through this difficult stage of their lives. My selfish longing might be to avoid the hassles and leave it to others to worry about. Or I might be inclined to take care of the decisions and finances but do so without being kind to my parents. So my sacrifice is that of love. I take time to visit them, pray with them, manage the funds and pay their bills. Mixed in with all of this is my grief in seeing them struggle with declining health, loss of independence, and disorientation. They don’t have their home anymore, or their special belongings. Many of their friends have died. This is sad. But the love of Jesus comes through me and my siblings as we visit and call our parents.

To be continued….

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30 03 2016

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