I sat in the seat of my pew and quickly thumbed through the pages of my Bible to the passage of John 9: 1-12. Then I heard him ask, "Is God fair?" He didn't ask me personally, but all of us there listening in anticipation to what this new pastor might teach us. I scribbled down notes, and gathered nuggets of truth. A pocketful of nuggets leaves me richer when I leave church than when I entered. We must gather them, and not leave them there to be forgotten.
I found myself nodding in agreement, hearing words that sounded familiar. "Yes. Yes. Yes, I agree with that." "Oh yes, I understand." "Yes, I've found that to be true in life." "Oh yes, no truer words have been spoken." Feeling pretty good about my grasp on this concept of God's fairness, and quite satisfied that I had no issue with God's fairness, I found my mind drifting to room #5015 where Dad lives.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Is it fair that Dad used to be able to manipulate a scalpel with precision and now needs assistance tracing simple shapes?
Is it fair that Dad used to spend hours preparing Sunday School lessons and he now struggles to spell his own name?
Is it fair that Dad used to be a snazzy dresser and now he doesn't understand that you only need to wear one shirt at a time rather than six?
Is it fair that I used to cry on his shoulder and now he cries on mine?
Is it fair that I can spend two hours with him and ten minutes later he doesn't know I was there?
Is it fair that on good days he speaks almost normal and on bad days I can understand very little of our conversation?
100 scenarios similar to these tumbled around in my head as I sat in my seat in that pew. My mind shifted from the craziness of life with Alzheimer's to the statements of fellow believers that cause me to cringe. Too often a well meaning sister or brother in Christ, but one without a full grasp on the reality of blessing in burden, says to me, "It just isn't fair." I feel like I need to explain to them how wrong they are. And how God's mercy and grace are in full display not only in Dad's life, but in the lives of those he has now placed in his path. It's not the same path he was on, but it is still God's path and God still uses him.
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. "
(me and Dad)
I hear these words come from the platform, "Is your suffering an opportunity to show what God is really like?"
Yes, yes. I can say it is. The ugliness of Alzheimer's has shed a beautiful light on the merciful and gracious and puzzle solving God that I serve.
Is it fair that my Dad, who has always been a physician with a pastor's heart, happens to be the only person in the memory support unit who can calm down one of his neighbors who seems to be distraught every day?
Is it fair that when my Dad leads all 16 residents and the staff on duty in prayer before dinner that the tears of the able minded unbelievers begin to flow?
Is it fair that when my Dad sees a fellow patient upset he says, "Let's sit down and talk about it."
Is it fair that my Dad will take aside one of his aides and sit in the dining room and read her a missionary book about New Guinea, the land where he served as a medical missionary?
Is it fair that I have to do things with Dad that I never did before Alzheimer's, like sit alone in his room with him and sing hymns?
Is it fair that God has used my Dad's condition to teach me in a completely clear and unquestionable way that although his ways are not my ways, he is using it all to weave together a tapestry of words, events, circumstances, and lives that bring his character and glory into perfect view.
As ugly as Alzheimer's is. God has allowed me to see its beauty. Our eyes must be open during suffering.
"Look for Jesus in your suffering and you will find him there."
Yes. Oh yes, I agree with that. I nod, and I know these words are nuggets, not just to carry in my pocket, but to spend and use and share.
I want to tell my friends, that includes you if you are reading this, that if you are suffering or being affected by the suffering of someone else, ask Jesus to show you who he is in the midst of all of it. Every time you feel that lump in your throat, every time your eyes sting with tears, every time you pound your steering wheel in anger, stop and say, "Jesus, make me more like you, by letting me see you in all of this." He will take you into a deeper understanding of who he is if you ask him to.
If you would like to hear the sermon that I heard as I sat in my seat on that pew, I would encourage you to do so. You can find the link here. For further reading about the fairness of God, you might like to read my post titled Oh How He Loves Us So.
Today I'm sharing with: