I’ve debated with myself for months over what to call this blog post. It’s terribly difficult to decide because there’s so much emotion and other “stuff” tied up in this decision. My wife Cheryl and I both found ourselves jobless and, well, pretty near broke in Colorado where we had met, fell in love, got married and seen our children grow up and move on to lives of their own. Thus, we are empty-nesters as well as being struck by the latest downturn in the economy (I’ve been out of work now for 22 months – and counting). When we both found ourselves without jobs, and nowhere else to turn, it seemed a good time to consider moving in with my mother and taking care of her in her “sunset” years.
Making a decision to take on elder care is not easy, nor is it something our society encourages very strongly. It seems the elderly and aged in our society are of little value to most folks. Like The Bible, they’ve been deemed “irrelevant” by our fast-paced and “do anything to get rich quick” society. Most people view “success” as having the most toys, the biggest house, the best yacht, what have you. As a Christian, and a follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings, I try to see life differently. My view of success, happiness, joy, whatever you call it, is peace of mind. In other words, my goals are to see that I’ve done the most each day to take care of those around me and provide for them not just the basic needs, but fulfillment in their lives as well as my own.
I learned, the hard way it seems, that the way to be a happy husband is to have a happy wife. Sadly, I didn’t learn this in my first marriage and I still have a great deal of emotional pain due to the breakup of my first marriage. Here again, in our society, most would simply say “Move on. Get over it.” The goal it seems, if you have a broken relationship is to simply replace that with another that makes you happy. Here again, there is a fundamental difference between what the world and Christ see as the definition for the word “happiness.” It takes study, and lots of work at being a Christian if you’re ever going to understand the true meaning of the word happiness, and especially love. To understand what love is, you’ve got to understand God.
But, I digress. Let it suffice for this discussion to say that “Love” (and similarly happiness), that is true love, is not a feeling. Love is a verb, it’s something you do, not something you get. Love is ACTION! That’s about as basic as I can make it so that you’ll understand when I say that loving my wife and those in my immediate sphere of influence doesn’t consist of my getting anything at all from them. Of course I do get love in return, but I don’t give my love in order to “get” anything at all back from them. This is where the world is sadly wrong on the definition of love and happiness. In the world you may find that the definition of love is much more like “What’s In It For Me?” We used to call that WII-FM (radio) for short. Folks are always running around trying to see what they can get for their investment, and of course, as we all know from finance, you want the biggest return for the least investment, so what we see in our world is a bunch of lazy people all trying to out-do one another with their “Bling” (looking good on the outside) so that they can avoid having to really feel anything at all on the inside.
Face it, most folks would rather die than feel real emotions. In fact, in my estimation, they are already dead on the inside. Many are also what I’d call “asleep” because they refuse to live life on life’s terms. They pretend they’ve got it wired, with their fancy cars and expensive clothes, their gold and all the other bling. But, in reality, they use all that as a cover for what they’re lacking on the inside – true happiness, peace of mind, joy in their spirit. Since most folks deny there is any spiritual dimension to life at all, they find it relatively easy therefore to hide from any sense that there is anything more important in life than themselves. Unfortunately, they deceive only themselves.
The wordly folks in our society choose hedonism, the desire to fulfill only sensory pleasures, rather than self-sacrificing love and service to others that achieves peace of mind and joy in the spirit. This is a sad state in our world, especially since there are so many suffering in this world. We’ve come a long ways towards conquering disease and hunger, but healthcare costs in this country continue to sky-rocket upwards. Does it occur to anybody at all that maybe the hedonistic life-styles of most folks are to blame? Think about it, if you have a pain, you take a pill. That “fixes” the pain, but does it do anything at all for the underlying cause? Not at all! We are a society of pill-poppers because we see the “quick fix” as the solution, when in fact it probably does more harm than good. But, don’t you see – the quick fix goes along so well with the hedonistic life-style that the two are nearly inseparable now?
Doctors care little for underlying causes any more. It used to be that they’d try to find causes of disease and fix that underlying issue, but it became cheaper and easier for them some time ago (in the past 50 years or so) to simply prescribe a pill to fix the problem rather than devote any real time to fixing the problem. Never mind that pills cause so many other issues for many folks. People forget all the time to read warnings on labels so that they wind up taking Tylenol for hang-overs or something like that and they ultimately poison themselves! We are surrounded by dangerous chemicals and folks self-medicate and harm themselves all the time! Amazing, isn’t it? But it fits well with the hedonistic life-style and “treating symptoms” rather than causes.
I’m not saying that I’m a much happier person for being a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, I am saddened and deeply cynical of what I see around me in our society. As I said, Cheryl and I made the decision to move in with my mother and help take care of her in her remaining years primarily from a desire to bless her. Her desire is to stay in her house as long as possible. My mother, you see, still lives in the house I grew up in. So, it really is “Going home” for me. But, in the 20 or so years I’ve been gone from my home town, and from the area where I grew up, not much has changed. Only I have changed. I see life differently. Perhaps it’s the simple fact of becoming a Christian that changed my world view. Perhaps it’s the trip I took last year to Haiti that really has opened my eyes to the greed and waste I see around me in our society now.
Perhaps it’s the Holy Spirit making me sensitive to the true needs of mankind, not just my own puny needs and desires. I tend to think it’s all these things (and more) together striving to make me a better person, one who truly cares about other people. It starts right here at home, with the family. We must truly love one another as Jesus taught us. Love, in this sense, means doing whatever it takes to make others feel valued and appreciated, to help them have fulfillment in their lives. I must do what I can to help my wife, my children, my mother, folks I meet and interact with, all of them – be better able to achieve peace and fulfillment in their lives.
I’m no expert on any of that. I only know that giving of myself and my time is the one way that I have to express my love for them. Being here, being home again, is the expression of my love for my wife and my mother and my children. I have come home to show them all what’s most valuable to me in my life: They are.