I’ve been thrust into rough waters lately. I am a caregiver for two parents, both with cognitive issues. This storm has been raging for many years but it’s recently reached tsunami level. What if this IS my purpose? Can I live with that?
In the past, I’ve been able to do enough writing and tutoring on the edges of caregiving–I even had a book published in November–that I’ve made it work, or at least I’ve fooled myself into thinking it does. But no more.
That’s why Oswald Chambers’ devotional on July 28, in My Utmost for His Highest, resonated with me.
“What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish—His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see ‘Him walking on the sea’ with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see ‘Him walking on the sea’ (Mark 6).”
The past few months, things have deteriorated. I see no end in sight. No shoreline. Will my role as caregiver continue for years? Will I be completely spent when all is over? Will there be anything of me left?
Caregiving is my calling for this season of my life. I learned a long time ago not to buck up against what God places in front of me to do. Yes, caregiving is emotionally exhausting; the amount of phone calls and paperwork are frustrating; and the level of decisions are the most difficult I’ve ever had to make (thankfully, my brother helps me make those). That said, there have been enough special, tender moments between me and each of my parents, moments for which I will always be grateful, that I can honestly say I’m thankful not to miss this precious season.
Sometimes, I feel afraid when I look to the future. Success? Goals? Let’s face it. I started my writing career rather late in life. The effort to revise and market and promote my writing is exhausting. I simply don’t have the energy for it right now. I’ve decided to put that out of my mind and take it off my to-do list for the immediate present.
I have more important things to do right now.
Yes, I hope to finish my sequel novel—someday. I hope to get it out into the world before I die, or before people forget what the first novel was about. But I believe that God has called me to be present with my parents in these holy moments in their lives.
God’s purpose for me is to enable me to see Him, calm and in control, in the middle of the storms of my life. My part is simple. All I have to do is look. To watch for Him and see where He shows up. To listen to what He whispers in my heart. To depend on Him.
My goal is to follow what I know for each moment of today. I add one moment on top of another and another and soon I have built something worthwhile. Something that may count more than 100 books.
Dementia patients often (usually) don’t understand what’s happening. This week, we had to make the difficult decision and put my Dad in assisted living for memory care. He’s afraid. He doesn’t know where he is. Either he’s in his childhood home in Philadelphia, or he has to hurry to get to work, or he has to find his father.
But there are some things he does know. He knows when his basic needs are met. He likes all his meals. He likes going for drives. He likes ice cream. He likes the pets that visit for therapy.
He knows love.
When I leave him, I hold his hand and we look into each other’s eyes. I can see that he loves me. He may have forgotten my name or even our relationship, but I know he can read love in my eyes.
I tell him not to worry. That Jesus is watching out for him and He’ll never leave him alone. That Jesus loves him and so do we. He smiles and nods. “Jesus,” he says. I see in his eyes that he believes what I’ve said.
If I can be present to help my father see Jesus in this final tsunami in his life, then I’ll die happy. Even if my sequel never sees the light of day.
Maybe Oswald Chambers is right. The means, or the process, matters more, and can glorify God better, than the end result. Perhaps the daily, moment-by-moment looking for God is the goal. It’s my purpose, for now. And that’s enough for me.