“The Lord is my portion” – One month on, watching my mother

for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:13

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12
– mum sporting a hat from her friend Bryce

In the middle of this headlong rush toward Christmas, all the excitement and bling and lights and noise, with the photographs and the holiday newsletters and the activities and the food, the special worship experiences and then the gifts – all this festive light and joy that fills this space day after day – I thought I would pause for a moment this morning and share a few words about my mother.

It’s been just five weeks since dad died. We had family here for the memorial service, then it was Thanksgiving in Orlando with Naomi and most of the Alexander family, mum’s week with a friend in Sarasota, and all the relentless ongoing details of dealing with accounts and claims and pensions and paperwork both sides of the Atlantic.

She would rather have gone with him…

This is all a lot to process. Fact is, mum is 91 and she had been – courtship and marriage – with dad since she was 17. She does not understand, she has said on more than one occasion, why she was not allowed to go with him.

I get that. We were created, the Bible teaches, for community; community with the Godhead and also community with one another. The very purpose of life is bound up in relationships.

And so, when most of the great friends you have made over a lifetime have already passed on, when you are too wobbly and easily overwhelmed to routinely participate in the life of your church, and when your spouse of more than 70 years dies, how is it possible to live with the quality of engagement that has made life so rich and satisfying for more than nine decades?

So why write about this?

I’m not trying to paint a pointedly sad picture here, or make my mother’s situation sound unique or extraordinary, I’m just thinking out loud about the challenges that can define the later years of life – even a life so well and faithfully lived.

My mum is – quite simply – not happy. She is glad to be next door to us, to see me several times a day, to eat dinner at Maul Hall, and to have me manage all the details… She loves, and she knows that she is loved, but she has been seriously “undone” by dad’s long infirmity and eventual passing.

Her trust in God is absolute; her life of faith is very real; her commitment to being a deliberate and positive follower of Jesus has never wavered. But this day-to-day life, at this particular time, is a burden she has lost the capacity to carry and the motivation to engage with any creative energy.

My purpose in sharing this story is, first, part of my commitment to telling the truth about life and to journal my experiences in real time. Also, and fundamental to this blog, is my intention to encourage all of us into a more thoughtful and interactive relationship to our own journey as disciples, or at least as believers struggling to make sense of life from day to day.

The bottom line has to be trust:

Watching my mother challenges some of my basic theological assumptions. Not that I expect God to push a button and make everything easy; but that I am struggling to reconcile my mother’s long, unselfish, faithful commitment to God (what Peterson calls “A long obedience in the same direction”) to her current disappointment.

I know that grief is a long process, and I do not presume to dictate to God how things should play out for my mother. But I do have questions. I do have, sometimes, as many doubts as moments of faith. And I do not have to like it.

– taking care of details…

Regardless, however, the bottom line here for me happens to be the same as my mother’s – it is trust.

Like I said, I do not have to like it. But I do trust God and I do have confidence that, in all things, “God’s compassions never fail.”

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.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

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