Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Experimental Faith: Analogies from Alzheimer's

[The original idea was something of a little journal entry, the sort I put in text files rather than to paper. So please forgive the rough writing, especially features like pronomial "such" and suches, chains of thought, and whatever other features or hard-to-read narrative that was not originally meant for an audience, but as personal reflection; some adjustments were made to my file after initially writing for reading by others, but not really in attempt to ease things. I just thought my experiences might benefit or encourage some other Christian out there, some day, if put online, where it becomes available for any who might search: I have benefited so much from material others have put online that I thought I might also share something. I apologize for its roughness; more benefit might be possible if it were integrated with more explicit statements or names of theological doctrines, Christian teachings, and so on, but then I might have a book rather than overlong blog entry; maybe some day I will heavily edit this and expand on the experience with more explicit benefit to fellow Christians in mind, but before so doing I think I would ask for heavy investigation and checking by sound pastors of the material. I leave searching the Scriptures, therefore, as a layman, and husband to no one, to the reader or readers.]

I have meant to begin setting to record anologies to Christian religion with the experience here with my great aunt, but have been occupied with other matters.

She is reduced somewhat by Alzheimer's, though sometimes imperceptibly to any who do not company long with her. In a respect therefore, she could be likened to fleshly but ordinary man, seemingly living, going about his daily affairs and pursuing his own ends without really being a nuisance or harm to anybody. She is, however, utterly dependent on outside oversight and intervention to last long, to not starve to death, or starve her animals, whether by forgetting where food is, or continuously feeding them until food runs out, or by re-mixing old food into the new, such that the only choices to the animals are either starve or eat the poison: betwixt them I found they will first choose starvation than consume the concoctions she would produce: would that sinful man and Christians could discern unmixed from mixed teaching, thatwhat is true from perverted truth, just as the cats detect soiled meat. She herself, before my arrival, may have been eating, in the rare event she fed herself, spoiled food, and unaware: I found bags and bags of it, and on occasion she does suddenly and uncharacteristically begin making herself something, yet when she does I must go check and ensure it is not some morsel of spoilage that I overlooked or which was hidden so I was unaware--sometimes it is. It is a bitter experience because of recognizing, in the past, suddenly all that I had held dear and participated in with others, to be largely spoiled and deceiving, and harmful not only to myself, and to relationship with God, but to others I had held it all with, and to theirs. I have tried saying so to some of them, and some are willing, when I have time, to sit down and hear; others have in the past become offended or renounced discernment of the type or things being criticized; others have not responded to pleas and outreach, or for one reason or another, will no longer communicate.

The situation here can be likened to the spiritual dynamic between the preacher of life and the dead hearer. Despite her utter dependence, incompetence, and inability, she does not know otherwise, and when in any wise she should momentarily perceive other she burgeons with pride and protests that another should be doing something for her, 'treating her like an idiot', "like I'm stupid", "an invalid", and so forth, though no one is being other than gracious, loving, and so forth, (with occasional lost tempers gone with patience within the family that are quickly apologized for and solaced with hugs); tell her that she is indeed "losing some (a gracious understatement) memory" and she becomes irritated if not angry that she is 'being accused of being an imbecile' (or an idiot, or stupid, etc.). Likewise, the dead hearer of the good news, commanded to faith and repentance---obedience unto God turning from sin in sorrow or grief at his wickedness finally understood and repented of, not merely for the potential fiery consequences or the losses incurred in consequence of sin over a lifetime, but for truly despising hating sin as evil and fearful of losing the only good, who is God, because of it, and sorry for the hurt caused Him, not a turning unto Him for the benefits of a moral and nobler life, or any other thing but these--is not willful to believe and understand contrary his wicked nature and protests in anger, resentment, or mockery the word preached, unless God drags him unto Christ. Her condition is analogous to this, though on the physical level, as her degredation mixed with personal pride prevents her from accepting the truth of her condition like the nature of wicked or depraved man directs his will to reject the word of God.

Those with Alzheimer's are often found in a state of childishness--some outright, I have read, bluntly state things like "we all know people with this condition become children" (a forum for caregivers and families of people so afflicted)--or become like children, not so much in that significance mistakenly attached in the romantic and idealic modernity in which we live, that is of innocence, but as before, childishness: immaturity and increasing (rather than, as is the ideal for children who are growing physically but also mentally, decreasing) difficulty in understanding sound words given them, whether in counsel, or merely a truth to correct a misunderstanding, like this fact, "the cats are not hungry but have been fed four times already, once just ten minutes ago, by you". The situation can be likened to the spiritual dynamic between the genuine shepherd of Jesus Christ and the ignorant and proud sheep. Despite her loss of competence and ability, she is unaware that there is someone of greater insight and understanding, knowing things she does not, right beside her, and telling her out of love, not to deceive, defraud, or enslave her, but for her own good and preservation, and protection both from herself and from others (she would have had nearly new windows all replaced by now, responded to countless scam letters, etc.). She thinks otherwise, however, and lashes out.[1]

The same sort of scenario can also be considered like unto when deceived Christians, or those deluded to think they are Christians but who have accepted some other doctrine than Christ's which is a counterfeit of that genuine, are told of concern and for love of the truth that they evince the signs of ingenuineness and need a talking to, or to hear and repent, or at the very least carefully scrutinize themselves, and if they still bear those marks, receive sound instruction and counsel to come unto repentance, a situation not rare, I'm afraid, in our day though it has probably never been, albeit probably worse in our day than ever with the mass mediatizing of gospels and christs and fads and programs and church brands and cults and heretical denominations and associations and movements and exploded and unprecedent population in the world.[2]

The analogy is more fitting to sinful man than the ordinary child on the one hand in this, that she is still in full possession and recognition that she is not a child, but a woman who has lived a remarkable if not extraordinary life; an extended one, with much of which she might boast if given opportunity. On the other, to the immature Christian in need of discipline and oversight, because exactly those things she does require; or to the willfully ignorant and rebellious, or deluded, though inexactly, because she is now ignorant, and it will only increase (most likely), in becoming rebellious, and is deluded, sadly, because of her condition and the pride remaining in her heart.

Which leads to another consideration. I have heard my entire life that we ought know ourselves, and I agree: I agree to the extent I am permitted to warn people that such is possible only in the light of knowing God, and with greater precision, of knowing the biblical Christ who is God and man, but not sinful, fallen man, but rather what man ought to be; not ethical hippy Jesus, but sinless, irreproachable, unsearchably perfect and otherwise Jesus. The Jesus his own disciples could hardly come to grips with until after His death, resurrection, and subsequent explanation of the Scriptures to them after all those things shattered their own hopes and expectations for what Messiah should be or do in the world when first come. Insofar as it is preached we ought know ourselves to love ourselves, assert ourselves, realize ourselves, be independent, and so forth, I disagree.

I disagree for it is a spirit of pride which I have for a while, though I cannot quite remember as of writing when I started, seen as contrary to the poorness of Spirit characteristic of the righteous, also the mark of a true Christian in Jesus, not mere humility or brokeness, as many are humiliated or broken in this world, but in which their eyes are really set on the true God and not some vain imagining concocted to make the one whose name is I AM acceptable to themselves, to be believable so they may obtain salvation, or make a better more humanitarian and moral world, within reach of their own hope. Such knowing of the self is not knowing either of God or man as one ought to know, and probably the mark of unbelief irregardless whether a man professes to know Him.

I disagree even more strongly now that a woman who has known herself so well and so thoroughly for so long, vindicates herself tirelessly from "accusation" of "being an imbecile" when just told "sometimes you really do put the fannie pack in places other than where you are used to fetching it, because of forgetting, but don't worry, we'll help you find it" with "I DO NOT. I SHOULD KNOW. I KNOW MYSELF!!!" Or the same with regards cats already being fed, "THEY HAVE NOT. I HAVE BEEN FEEDING THEM FOR YEARS..." and whatever other situation one might encounter with her, and try to be truthful, sincere, and loving in explanation.

In dealing with someone like this, (besides some other deep losses of opportunities and openings foregone for belief and obedience in life), one also gains a greater sense and understanding of how costly selflessness can be, and what it really means: there is not much relationship here, what you do for someone today will likely not be remembered tomorrow, if five minutes later. Give a book or make a purchase of something she likes, takes a liking to, sets her sights upon, and in which for a moment she has a little joy, or when she comes upon it later, she might have joy again? Expect not to be remembered. Expect only, as the one who is near, to be the object of accusation and consternation; the one "hiding" or "hoarding" and therefore "preventing me from feeding my cats [read, babies]"; the one "stealing", or "taking jokes of hiding too far", "my fannie pack"; the one who "took my house and car keys" (though she has just lost them, or doesn't recognize them when held in her hand with her eyes looking right at them), and on an on...because I am here.

In part it is a brutal and tiresome lesson. Altogether, however, is a little bit of insight, from experience gained such that it becomes intuitive and known closely at heart, understood sensitively rather than just sterily in mind, by these analogies into some of what Scripture is talking about; some of what must be the relation and similar misunderstandings, and ignorant foolishness of man toward God who is a loving benefactor and kind keeper of His special possession. Biblical themes are constantly in front of my eyes as I interact with my aunt, deign to even silly demands, try to explain as she accuses but in vain, begin to do all I can for her help even as she yells "I never put my fannie there, I know it's not there" as I search to find it, or whatever, for her; withhold things like cat food so she does not bring them harm from overfeeding in the stead of caring for her beloved pets.

One of the analogies possible is of Jesus' command not to store up treasures on earth, or seek reward or recognition here (for which I had to do some thinking about whether or not to post this online, and consider out of what motives I do); I mentioned how one can expect to have no recognition, and not be remembered for anything done by her. There is, in fact, little relationship: there is to be sure something--once while leaving her with my grandmother for errands (who is nearby in town, very good since I am required at the moment to seek employment and must be able to take it at the moment any is offered by an employer) she became quite consternated that I was leaving: she cried, "who is going to take me out or home?!" It was as though she was about to be left alone, even with two other people right beside her--even if yesterday and the months before have all gone, and my name, somehow she recognizes dependence in some things, some times, if not for understanding incapability, at least because of legal necessity--there are days with rants about her keys and license being unjustly taken away, and without examination of her by specialists, though nones of these assertions is true, but simply put, she has forgotten it all.

Most importantly, I recognize how I am not God, or rather, how very separate from and other than God mere man is. I have lost a lot because of coming here to help; losing even more opportunity, but am pursuing obedience to love as Christ loves: she is a widow and needy; she would be dead by now if not for the intervention. I am, however, tired. I can lose my temper and have to walk away so as not to sin. I am unable to convince her most of the time of anything, because her condition prevents it. My love is imperfect, as is any man's, such that I have continuously to fight selfishness, or remind myself that even other, important things that I want or have to do, might have to be put on hold as she is here and needs me right now. I am overall powerless to do much more than making sure she has food for the belly, ensure she takes her medication, washes stitches, gets her house cleaned some, has and does not overfeed or mis-feed the cats, gets taken to socials or groups or events she likes, or ferried to stores she might wish to tread; it is impossible for me to heal or do much about her condition; anything one might do, perhaps getting someone like this to become very active for the neural benefits it bequeaths, requires her cooperation; I need help in all this, have to rely and call on family, and still need more assistance all the time; it is very lonely. God, on the other hand, does not grow weary, even though He rested; He does not tire or ever fail in perfect love, (love being the doing, and working all things towards, the good of the objects of His love); He does not require the hand of any man, nor takes any counsel from him; He does not need man's cooperation in anything, though He might choose to use men either against their wills or to use men in whom He has authored faith and grown obedience such that by the indwelling Spirit of Jesus Christ they cooperate with Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment