Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

10 November 2009

Finishing Well and Living Well in the Meantime

When my dad was dying, the last lucid conversation we shared was him reliving an event from the times of my childhood.

Just before my husband's dad died, his last utterance was in his native language, not English.

And it seems that in losing one's memory the short term memory is the first thing affected - the long term memory is stronger.

Why am I thinking about these things? Recently a dear man at church asked me if I would put together a file of verses from Scripture so that he could read them to his wife who is now in care with various conditions including dementia. It was a privilege and a huge responsibility. And it got me wondering...

What Scriptures do I want read to me when I move from independence back into the state of dependence that old age or serious ill health may bring?
Will my knowledge of the Bible and my love of God be strong enough that these things will stay with me when all else goes?
What will I default to when my life is drawing to a close?

In thinking about these things it seems to me that we have the opportunity to finish well. But it means work now - but good work - work that will feed and nurture us now as we prepare for the future. It means being steeped in the Word of God - reading the Bible, praying in its truths, memorising key portions. It means laying solid foundations for the future.

And it seems it IS possible to finish well. Be encouraged in reading this:

John Piper recently recounted his father’s unwavering faith, even in his closing years:
Even in his final years of dementia, he rejoiced. In the last month that he was able to keep a journal (April of 2004), he wrote,

“I’ll soon be 86 but I feel strong and my health is good. God has been exceedingly gracious and I am most unworthy of His matchless grace and patience. The Lord is more precious to me the older I get.”

Read that final line again, slowly. What an amazing sentence—even in the midst of dementia, he felt the increasing preciousness of the presence of Christ.*

It is another example of making use of the good times we have to prepare for the harder times that will surely come upon us. And we can do so with good courage. It says in Lamentations 3:22-27:

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself,'The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.'
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young."

And in being busy about laying good, Biblical foundations,we will surely benefit in the meantime. As we grow in years we become set in our ways. Yes, you young things who read is true!!! Alas, it is true. Speaking from my position here in the early forties, one does become set in one's ways. I am, after all, the one who took her own nice mug on holidays for those holiday cups of tea! It's a trivial example, but wouldn't it be good, as we become increasingly set in our ways, to become set in Biblical ways. Just as we have the opportunity to finish well, we also have the opportunity to make our default position one that is Biblical.

A friend's mother put it more plainly. She said, "If I lose my mind, the thing I want to stick is Scripture." Me too.

There is work to do...and it will be a joy.
* Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, p. 11 as found on John Piper's Desiring God site.


Mrs. Edwards said...

This is very encouraging. When I was struggling with a very difficult first trimester, feeling pretty rotten constantly, I was too physically sick to keep up my prayer journal and my precious morning devotions. This was devastating to me. I always imagined that when I aged and suffered physically that I would cling to my Bible, but I didn't imagine that I would feel too sick to manage it. It struck me that it would have been wonderful if I had asked my husband, children, or mother to read Scripture to me. So obvious, and yet I didn't think of it. I think that when someone close to me is too sick to keep up their discipline of devotional Bible reading, I will offer to read Scripture to them. It really resonated with me, then, to read about the man in your church who is preparing to read Scripture to his wife.


Meredith said...

Thanks for the description of your personal experience and also for the excellent outwardly looking application of serving others already in this position. I've been feeling quite introspective about all of this today but your kind comment has nudged me out of my introspection to think about serving others. Being aware of others already in this situation and serving them well is a wonderful ministry for us all.

It is probably a good idea, with those we hold dearest, to know which parts of Scripture really encourage and speak to them - because we all have our favourites! There's a new list to keep tucked away, probably in our Bible.

Thanks Amy. God bless you richly.

Caroline E said...

Hi Meredith,
Could you share the list of Scriptures you put together for that man and his wife? It would be a great step towards us to making our own, but I for one need the jump start that your list would provide.
Caroline E

Meredith said...

Hi Caroline,
It would be a pleasure to share the list. I have just checked to make sure I saved the document!!!! Phew! It is still there. So I shall get onto that right now.
Thanks for dropping by.

mattnbec said...

Songs are one of the things people seem to remember when they're old and losing their memory too. So one of the things I'm hoping is that I can remember and sing songs which remind me of the gospel. And I love the idea that I may have lost my mind but still be able to share the truth of Jesus as I sing in a nursing home!