You might not know it, but today is “World Alzheimer’s Day.” This day is spearheaded by an organization called The Global Voice on Dementia. You can check them out at: http://www.alz.co.uk/ This has become a global concern that even the UN has taken notice of, and this week they are addressing it for the second year in a row.
The most recent stats claim that there are currently 30 million people who suffer from dementia, and there will be an estimated 100 million people by the year 2050.
If Alzheimer’s has not affected you or your family, there is truly no way to adequately communicate how painful, hard and devastating it is on the whole family. As the days go by, there seems to be less and less of the person you knew and loved “at home” in their body. To live through the deterioration causes you to ask God some serious questions. Walking through the effects of Alzheimer’s when it came to visit my family, has left all of us changed…it was a very long and hard journey.
I think that is why I had such an instantaneous reaction to Pat Robertson’s remark about Alzheimer’s this week. A man whose wife had Alz indicated that since his wife was no longer “there” he was moving on with his life, and wondered if it was okay to divorce her since there was not a tangible relationship anymore.
While Pat has made some pretty embarrassing news remarks over the years, which have often given Christianity a black eye, when he said it was okay for this man to divorce his wife since Alzheimer’s is a “kind of death” I was speechless.
When we reduce love and commitment to a formula that says, ” I am only in this as long as my needs are met, we have absolutely missed what it means to follow Christ with our actions and choices.
This kind of ethic-less thinking means that if you are not able to do for me what I want, regardless of a medical diagnosis, then I have no moral or ethical responsibility to stay in a relationship with you. Unfortunately I have actually witnessed couples divorcing months after a marriage began because one spouse got cancer, and the leaving spouse knew his sexual needs wouldn’t get met.
This reveals how me-centric we have the capacity of being, and how desperately we need God to help transform us into men and women who choose truth and sacrifice over self, ease or comfortability.
Do you remember the old “Lifeboat” analogy we grew up with…where there was a diverse group of people in a rescue boat, from teachers and lawyers, to disabled and jobless. The Lifeboat dilemma was that the boat was overloaded and some of the people had to go…the question to process through was…which life was truly worth saving. Welcome to ethics 101, and throw in a dash of situation ethics as well.
When we think life can be trimmed down to easy answers and flippantly decide which people deserve our love; which people deserve our unconditional commitment, and what is the loop-hole I can deploy when life get tough, we reduce our humanity to something more animalistic.
The man who Pat gave a get-out-of-marriage free card to, might have felt some relief for a while, but I think soon he will be flooded with other feelings that are not quite so life-giving. I know the weight and burden the loved ones of Alz patients carry is immense, but life isn’t devoid of pain. Instead of running from the pain and the feelings, real life it’s about who we are becoming through the pain.
You see God has placed His own source code into the hearts of us all. While we are good at tricking ourselves, living in denial or avoiding the questions of the soul…when the night spaces come, our heart is crying out the questions unleashed by the divine DNA within us, and we know that there are truths that exist beyond our comfort zones and our ability to justify.
Every life matters because every life has its genesis in the creative imagination of God. We have the opportunity to most reflect the God-reality within us when we choose love, life, to invest in those considered un-worthy, to love those who seem un-lovable, and to stay committed to those who we made a covenant with and are unable to reciprocate because of something as devastating as Alzheimer’s.
In a very real way, God demonstrates the opposite advice that Pat gave. As God looked at broken humanity that struggled with a complete disconnect from the divine, He could have said, “Well, their sin situation is kind of a death, so I don’t need to stick around.” Fortunately for us He didn’t. In fact in Romans 5:8 we read:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Then in chapter 6 verse 23 Paul reminds us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So when we were considered “dead” that is when God’s extravagant love went into overdrive, not into a me-centric justification for non-involvement.
The life-giving model we see in the choices of the Father and the Son is to preserve the beauty and sanctity of life…not look for loop holes to disengage.
May we raise our awareness, compassion and love and stay committed to the ones we love, especially those with whom we said, “Til Death do us part.”