When the Golden Bowl Breaks
Near where I live is an elderly gentleman who lives in a retirement home. Sweet guy, unless you're relative of his. Sad but true, he suspects that his family is conspiring against him. Despite the fact that his sons are successful and drive luxury sedans, he is convinced that they want to do him in for his Ford Tempo. And he tells them so.
My dad had a stroke about five years ago, and believe me when I say this, he was a bear to be around for the two following years. I turned to the Bible for help, and the following is what I found. If you should find yourself in such a situation, it will help you to be a better Christian and a better supporter to your parents age.
First: Have pity by putting yourself in their shoes. Proverbs 14:29 says, "He who is slow to wrath has great understanding." It's a sad commentary on all of us that most of our anger is due to a lack of understanding. We all like to think that other people earn our anger, but in reality most of our anger is immature, uncalled for, and unbecoming to a Christian. Thankfully, there's help. In Luke 7:35f the Lord himself shows us how to put a little depth into our perspective. The place is the house of Simon, a Pharisee. During the course of the meal, a certain woman arrived. What Simon saw was a nuisance, a stringy haired obstacle to decency and digestion, an embarrassing distraction from weighty conversation. Isn't it odd how Jesus' acute sense of observation missed those things? What Jesus did see was a depressed, hurting person who was hungry for change and to be directed of God. The fact that Simon saw none of these things points to our own failure to see these things in so many of the people we meet. The question for you is, what do you see in your parents? Don't be so shallow as to not see beyond the decline of their minds to see the parents who loved you. Think about how horrible it must be to live with so many frightening delusions and to have everything familiar become strange. A little under-standing works a lot of compassion.
Second: Ignore insults rather than arguing them. Proverbs 19:11 says "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression." Proverbs 17:9 says, "He who covers a transgression seeks love." Even more to the point, the Bible says, "Do not give heed to all the things that men say, lest you hear your servant cursing you; your heart knows that you have yourself cursed others." If it's a glory to ignore an insult, how much more then for the confused insinuations of a parent who cannot help what age is doing to him! Having to take it upon self to correct every little misstatement will only add to the wrongs of an untamed tongue with a track record for trouble. With the elderly, patient loving kindness is by far the best defense, an advocate that speaks more highly than an arguing mouth.
Third: When it's time to convince your aged parents to make an important decision, try not to do it alone. 1 Kings 1 illustrates this well. David has become an old, ineffective king who still clutches the throne of power. Ambitious, evil men are already cutting up the kingdom. It is easy for all of us, and especially so with the elderly, to rather pilot a ship to ruin than to admit that we need help. The kingdom was falling apart and Nathan wanted to do something about it, but notice that he didn't do it alone. Rather, he made a team effort with Bathsheba. It worked. Your folks may be crashing their estate or may need to make some other important decision. If you take someone else whom they trust, you will be wise to imitate Nathan and avoid a solo sales pitch.
When you were a child, there were days when no doubt you put your parents through "the works." Now that we are older, we have another kind of works for our parents: good works. Be understanding with their fears, don't let unfair remarks become a big deal, be there to help them as the sweetest person you can be, and don't be afraid to encourage others to help out, especially those who should be obligated to do so. Let's remember the most important part: God will remember our labor of love, and that makes everything worth it.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 4 p. 5