I am not a good problem solver. I don’t think logically most of the time. In fact, I panic and cannot express myself clearly. I’m incredibly selfish. I don’t like body fluids and poor hygiene either, yet I got both when my ailing father needed help. Even though scripture tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive, care giving did not bless me. The details of dementia, brain trauma, alcoholism, and depression of brother and father proved too much for me. I ate Milky Way bars constantly and too many plates of comfort food.
As clumsy and reluctant as I was with daily details, my deepest regret and shame was the depth of my hard heart which prevented me from loving and cherishing my relatives to the utmost. To my amazement, I did not become sanctified through the ordeals to any noticeable degree. I acted the same at the end of our afflictions as I did at the beginning, which added to my shame. How can someone go through years of crises and serious churchgoing and not grow up in Christ in all things, or at least in a few?
Perhaps my foundational beliefs were in error, or maybe I was the seed on thin soil that withered in the scorching sun. Maybe the intensity of the medical and psychiatric storms numbed me to a point of being untouchable by the conviction of God. The tears of exhaustion and grief blended right in with the tears of conviction and I could not sort them out. I simply laid me down to sleep. I prayed the Lord our souls to keep; “Preserve our faith, dear Lord, because there is no time to think. My father can’t think rationally anymore anyway.”
For all my shortcomings, failures, and sin, this one thing I did right: I hid under the shadow of God’s wings. I didn’t hide anywhere else. I cried out to God from my father’s plaid couch in his dark living room. I cried out in the stark hospital elevators and hospice halls and in the dingy hotel room on the strip in Hyannis near the bay. I cried out in my car in the parking lot after endless 16 hour hospital days and on the Greyhound Bus on my way back from drunken brother’s home. My throat went hoarse from crying and praying in the medical center chapel when the police led him away handcuffed with a bullet wound in his head. There wasn’t any place where I did not appeal to all the power and meaning and work of Christ’s blood at Calvary.
In spite of my lack of growth in love and beauty and holiness, God acted in the most holy, magnificent, intimate ways you can imagine. He sealed my heart to his. He was better to me than I deserved and he declared his loving kindness down to the last penny and the last ash to drop into the sea. He used the years to prove himself to me, whether or not I could show glorious proof of him in me.
Today I look back on my spiritual history, of years of life lived “in the faith.” The experiences of God’s faithfulness and miraculous interventions have given greater meaning to my learned childhood faith and my determined adult faith. Like Moses’ rod that blossomed and the branch that made the waters of Mara sweet, at first the stick is just that, a stick. The baton of faith. Lines of scripture. Catechism faith, Sunday school faith, Alpha class faith, doctrine faith. Only later do we discover the life and power and divinity of what we’ve learned, and our faith blossoms into fullness of his life.
Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
Years have passed since those intense, fractured days. Problem solving still stumps me and I have not changed my mind much about body fluids. My eyes have even gotten a bit dim, and my hair a bit gray, but I have been blessed to receive from God and to see more clearly than ever before.