Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Let Love Win

Regular readers may know by now that my 90-year-old father-in-law, a Florida resident, may come to live with us. He's fallen recently and is in a rehab center now, getting stronger daily in small leaps.

I speak to him on the phone daily to get to know him better and track his progress.

This probably seems strange, but although I've been married 14 years, I've seen my father-in-law only twice for short Florida visits--once in the year after we married, and again when my first child was 9 months old.

He doesn't care to fly or travel and we don't have travel funds. And for the last five years, up until Father's Day 2013, Luther gave all of us the silent treatment, not answering the phone, not reading our letters.

I think that phone call on Father's Day, from Luther to us, was an answer to our prayers and Part One of God's plan to help Luther finish well. Luther's fall two weeks ago was Part Two of God's redemption plan.
Some days Luther seems interested in living with us, and other days he leans toward a retirement home.

At any rate he knows the risk of falling again is too great to continue living alone. What will Luther ultimately choose?

What does God want? What is his divine plan for my father-in-law's last months or years on this earth? I wonder about this daily now. If we are actors and actresses following an already-written script (God's will) what is my next scene about...and what is Luther's about?

Certainly it would be hard both for him and for us if he lives here. The children are noisy and needy and the chores and tasks are many. My plate is already full. And Luther has lived alone some 40 years now, never remarrying after his wife died in a car accident when my husband was 16. How will he adjust to having housemates? Will he shout and bark at us to be quiet?

What happens when my ADHD son has a meltdown? Will Grandpa interfere? Will I get angry at him and him at me? Will he love my son unconditionally, or favor the other children?

Will Luther have picky meal requests on top of my children's pickiness? What will I make for dinner, pray tell? What if my pineapple-upside down cake tastes too sweet, compared to his wife's?

On the one hand it all seems so messy, but God has a purpose for every stage of our lives. He allows our bodies to give out gradually. In the 80's and 90's we lose our balance and fall frequently. We can't quite get to the bathroom in time and we feel so tired, needing daily naps.

Does all this deterioration happen for a reason--beyond just the sin curse?

Parents care for babies and young children despite the exhaustion and intensity, day and night. We all survive and hopefully our little ones stay out of trouble, if not thrive during these years.

Later, it reverses. Elderly parents need the same care from us that decades earlier they provided for us. Even down to the potty care, bath care, feeding care and settling them down for a nap.

Why this cycle? What is God's intention? After living separately for decades, suddenly parent and child are back together under one roof, sometimes with fear as to how it will turn out?

As I've talked to God about this, I think I'm hearing these words--redemption, amends, forgiveness, grace, mercy, gratitude.

Most of all, I think God wants Luther to finish well. The Lord began a work in Luther's heart years ago, but Luther was not always cooperative. He's stubborn as an ox, much like my sister-in-law and one of my own daughters (Mary).

As a father Luther was sharp-tongued and merciless with his children. As much as he could he ignored them, spending all his non-working hours in his garage, tinkering. My husband, his sister, and their mother walked around on egg shells, not knowing what would happen next with Luther's temper. There was frequent spanking, but probably not what we'd call abuse...emotional abuse, sure, but not physical.

In his defense I must add that Luther was raised by a mentally-challenged mother and no father at all. The circumstances of his birth and upbringing were tragic.

Now at age 90, as much as Luther may want the comfort and quiet of a retirement home, God may want him in the midst of family chaos and love.

God may want Luther to finally invest in someone's heart, despite the fear of failure. And similarly, the Lord may want someone to give Luther unconditional love, despite his rough edges. His wife and children despised him most of the time. Luther left his own mother when he was 16 to work and live on someone's farm, closer to the high school, and his mother disowned him for it.

Luther desperately needs a love he doesn't deserve. Like someone else I know? Like me? Like my husband and our children?

We are all the same...sinners in need of grace. We crave love above all. Love heals. Love redeems. Love changes the heart.

The Lord may want Luther to speak love into his children heart's for the first time, smoothing over past wounds. My husband can get in touch with the childhood pain easily, but he's forgiven his father. His sister hasn't.

The Lord may want all of us to swim in the pain of brokenness for a while, while he works to redeem the past and finish the work he began in Luther, while dealing with our sins at the same time. We may need to overlook a lot of harsh words, and Luther may need to overlook a lot of noise and chaos and messy family business.

Through it all each person sharing this roof will need to cling to the Father. Tightly. It will be, above all, a lesson in clinging to God. I've had lessons like that before--two miscarriages, job loss, three unpleasant medical diagnoses in my children. I look back on those trials without resentment, knowing that in those months I grew exponentially.

Please pray with me that Luther will finish well? That he will come to our home and live life messy with us? That he will let God redeem the past? That Luther would receive unconditional love here? That he would leave a strong legacy afterall, by the grace of a magnificent God?

Luther's is just one messy story in a sea of human brokenness. Every family, every descendant of Adam and Eve, has a messy story. The question is, what will we do with our messiness? 

Pray that in our home, and in yours, love wins...for the glory of God.

Psalm 66:10 You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver.


Lisa said...

Praying, my friend. :)
Much love to you.

Vicki said...

Praying for you and with you!!
You are such a wonderful example of the way Jesus asks us to be.

Christine said...

Thank you for the prayers, Lisa and Vicki. They are sure appreciated!

Beth said...

Praying for your family, praying that God will provide the strength that is needed to share God's love.