Tag Archives: family

When we Love Another

This morning I was struck by an article shared on Facebook by a friend. It was a letter from an emergency room doctor comparing the way we used to treat our elderly and the way we treat them today. article can be read here. I highly recommend everyone digest it.

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The doctor was arguing we have not improved the lot of the aged by keeping them artificially alive long after their bodies have run their course. He paints a beautiful image of an elderly woman propped up and looking out a window, watching her grandchildren playing as her time approaches. She is permitted to pass among her loved ones in familiar surroundings. He then compares the modern tendency to warehouse the aged and artificially keep them alive, long after they have lost any semblance of quality life. Now, before you take this letter and build a new norm—declaring that all elderly should be allowed to stay home until they are quietly and peacefully shuffled off this mortal coil—keep in mind that replacing an imperfect system with another imperfect system is not an improvement. To make it somehow unloving to seek nursing home care for a parent whose daily needs are beyond what the family can provide is no better. And simplistically deciding it is best to allow nature to run its course may not be the solution either. Imagine a person who needs extreme care, burdening her family, but continuing to carry on for decades. What I am saying is that swapping the social burden and guilt which causes many families to extend a loved one’s life into an almost cruel existence is not improved by placing guilt upon them for being unable to provide extreme but appropriate care at home.

Instead, we need to understand something much deeper. We need to understand love and what it truly calls upon us to do. Recently I had a conversation with a family member. I explained that when I say “I love you” this does not mean I agree with what you are doing, or feel good about your situation. It may be true that I can love you and not even enjoy being around you because of what they are doing. You see, to love someone is to always act in keeping with that person’s best interest. It means I will do what is in your best interest, even when it may not be in mine.

One thing I’ve discovered, in my own experiences, with families making end of life decisions is that they too often make them based upon their own interests, instead of the interests of the one suffering. People may say:

“How will I go on without him?”

“But I don’t want her to die!”

“But I need him. We can’t make it without him.”

You see, to act in a loving way is to make the decision based on their interests. The sentiments above are natural and normal. But, depending upon the situation they are likely selfish. The loving version may be:

“Is it right to force him to go on like this?”

“Does she want to continue like this?”

“What does he need? Can he live like this?”

My point is that doing the loving thing, in this situation and many others, is often the hard thing. The loving person often must make the very choice they want least to make. When I was raising my children I had to do many things I did not want to do. I did them, not because they were good for me, but because they were good for my children. As a husband, I have to do things based upon my wife’s needs. As a son, I must do things based upon my mother’s needs. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is far from needing such choices made. I hope to be as healthy as her when I am her age. It is the fact that I may someday face these choices that makes me think. I’ve already had to make many hard choices and do many hard things in love. When my son was young I had to hold him down while the doctors did a spinal tap. This was not easy. It hurt him and he screamed. My own nature said, “No!” But my duty as a father and my love for my son made me do what needed to be done.

What I am trying to do is get us to understand that love is doing what is right for the one loved. If this means it is time to pull the plug on a loved one, then do so without guilt and without any concern for what others might say. If the best care and quality of life for an elderly parent is in a nursing home, then don’t be ashamed of making that decision. But if it’s better to keep that parent at home and allow them to leave this earth from their own room, then don’t let anyone shame you into making a different decision.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This last part is another element of love. Love acts without fear. Others may misunderstand. Others may get angry. Others may attempt to cast aspersions and to shame the one upon whom the choice falls. But recognize these for what they are—manipulations. Love will not be manipulated. Love chooses based upon the needs of the one loved and then stands behind the choice.

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How Volleyball Can Destroy a Childhood

As the Director of Family Ministries, I feel as though I should display an image of someone who has a great deal of insight into how families should interact with one another and pursue God together.  However, I have no wisdom to impart other than that which the Lord has laid on my heart in those times where I have needed a word of encouragement and truth.  I am beyond passionate about equipping others to have a deeper relationship with God and yet I stumble through life…daily.  I cannot be an effective family minister if I am not first completely transparent about my own struggles and fears.

I have an 11 year old daughter and I worry daily that she is going to one day have her own family and have nothing to draw from in her relationship with God because I failed to be the perfect role model for her.  Will she only remember the mistakes I have made in my life?  Is she going to be a juvenile delinquent and start doing drugs because I fell asleep in the middle of our “quality time” yesterday?  Will she grow up resenting me because I didn’t take the time to show an interest in her favorite sport by not playing volleyball with her in the backyard?  Little does she know it is because I am TERRIFIED of the ball hitting me in the face.  She had to pick the one sport that I despise above all others.   I have PTSD from my childhood every time I see that round ball of death flying in my general direction.  Seriously, it should be illegal in all 50 states.   Volleyball ruins lives.  But, I digress.

One day, a few years back, I was fixating on my imperfections and failures as a mother when God brought a thought into my mind that sticks with me to this day.  Jesus was the perfect teacher, the perfect father figure to his disciples and yet they still made mistake after mistake in their lives.  They were being ministered to and taught by God himself and they still made bad choices.  My point is that even if we were the most perfect parents on the planet, our children are still human and they WILL make mistakes.  They WILL struggle with strongholds in their lives.  But, you want to know the good news?  God already knows this.  That is the very reason he sent his son…to free us from the penalty of our sins so that we can love others in the way he loves us.

Matthew 9:12-13 states, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.”  God knows our struggles and temptations.  He knows that the things of this world can entangle us and cause us to lose sight of Him and his love for us.  So, he calls us to minister to one another and help each other to find our way back to him.  How does he do this?  By using those who can empathize with specific weaknesses that others are struggling with.  He turns our sins and our mistakes into blessings for others.  He uses our failures to enable us to show mercy to others and to love them through us.

Jesus knew what it felt like to be tempted by all the things that we are tempted by and the things we struggle with – anger, fear, frustration, stress, hunger, etc.  He dealt with many difficult situations during his time on earth and he never gave into sin.  But, he is able to fully empathize with how hard those things are to turn away from and has mercy on us.  He came here to fully understand our struggles, to love us and teach us about God’s saving grace, and then died for us because of our weaknesses and his mercy and grace toward us…his desire to save us from the penalty of those mistakes.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16

Our children don’t need perfection from us.  They just simply need to know they are loved.  They need to be listened to and heard.  They need us to reflect God’s love and grace onto them.  Does that mean that we are perfect at all times?  No.  Does that mean that we should never make mistakes in front of them?  No.  Those are opportunities to show them that no one is perfect…and that’s ok.  What matters is how we grow and learn from our mistakes.

God has “not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

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