I am writing this on Friday.
On Fridays, my mother goes out for the day. She gets her hair done, and goes to the bank, and picks up medication, and does a host of other things I don't know about. I don't question her too closely – she needs the chance to get away.
But my father cannot stay alone anymore.
So today it is my turn to babysit my dad.
Gotta be honest, I'm only about halfway into the day, and I am exhausted. It's a difficult, frustrating, sad, and pathetic situation.
I have spent most of the day reminding my dad who I am – and that, yes, I grew up with him. I have heard (over and over) the whole routine with the sprinklers. I have been showing him how to tell time on his watch – (he's lost this ability in just the last month). I have discussed the little calendar he has next to his chair on his TV tray – the calendar on which we've written his appointments, and what child will be taking care of him on which days – dozens of times.
I have listened to him tell me I'm brilliant because I found out the Dow Jones average on my computer today – instead of watching the ticker tape on TV for an hour.
I have been shouting because one of the batteries on his hearing aid died – (Mom has not bought new ones yet) – and he can't hear me. Of course, that hasn't stopped him from talking and asking me questions - questions that most of the time he can't hear the answer to.
I have watched him hobble around on two legs that look too skinny to walk on anymore. I have chastised him to use his walker. I have patiently responded to his curt retort with my caution that he will fall without it.
I have listened to him yell at me over something he thinks I said, but I didn't. I have been a victim of his anger and sarcasm.
It's so very sad.
My father used to be a brilliant man. He graduated early from Cornell University because he exempted his finals – his grades were that good, straight A's. He owned his own successful business for many years. He was a leader in the church.
It saddens me greatly to see his decline.
It all seems so unfair.
Old age can be a bitter pill…
And I've been thinking today about it all.
I've been thinking about how Jesus assures us that He understands everything we go through.
But I'm wondering this – Jesus never lived long enough to become an old man. He died at a pretty young age.
So how on earth can He understand what it's like to be old?
As I ponder this, I've come up with a few answers.
First of all, I realize that He knew some really old people. Rumor has it that He was pretty close to Moses, a man who wasn't called to his purpose until he was 80 years old. It's my clear understanding that the Lord knew Abraham, an elderly gentleman who laughed at the prospect of having a child. I hear that He and the apostle John were best friends well into John's old age.
I'm thinking that Jesus just might have a soft spot in His heart for oldies but goodies.
Second, I'm wondering this – how could Jesus understand the physical complaints of the elderly? Aching joints, tired bodies, foggy memories – what does Jesus know about that? But then I think of all the walking He did – he had to have had moments of great physical pain and exhaustion. With all the people who clamored after Him, His thoughts must have been overwhelming at times. He must have suffered from insomnia and brain fog at times.
I'm thinking that Jesus just might have a soft spot in His heart for the failings of the flesh.
And lastly, I'm thinking this. After Jesus returned to heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who inhabits every believer. The Holy Spirit who has chosen to unite Himself with us. Who has deigned to live in a human vessel. So, in the same way that our spirits are held captive in this earthly and temporary tent we call a body, in some ways so is the Holy Spirit. Therefore, might He also then feel everything that we feel? I'm thinking He does. It's how He can utter the deepest groanings that our spirits cannot express.
I'm thinking that Jesus just might have a soft spot in His heart for the tension between temporal and eternal.
So, I'm thinking that Jesus really does understand what my dad is going through.
For I truly believe that Jesus came to redeem the lost and the hurting. He came to reverse the inevitable deterioration and decay inherent in a broken world. He came to rescue those whose lives are fragile. He came to conquer death.
He came to turn the clock back on Eden.
He came so that old age is only a temporary condition.
Aching joints will one day run again – tired bodies will never need sleep again – foggy brains will be gloriously renewed.
And He, our High Priest, the One who understands it all, will stand at the pearly gates and smile.
He will celebrate the culmination of the purpose of the Cross – He will rejoice at the revelation of His resurrection power.
He will glory in the gift of eternal LIFE!
So, how on earth can He understand?
Because He came – HERE – on earth.
Emmanuel – God with us.
Yes, He's with my dad and with every old person who walks through the valley of the shadow of death.
He is with every old person who never, ever walks alone…
…and He is also with those who walk alongside them.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses...
"This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." (Hebrews 4:15-16, NLT)
"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words." (Romans 8:26, NLT)
"Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10, NASB)
How does God help you in your weakness?