Reed column: Faithfulness in the shadow of the fourth commandment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By The Rev. Ken Reed
For The Salisbury Post
In June 2003 after my grandfather’s first stroke, I observed his health gradually steal his independence. Over time, he seemed to lose his ability to carry out simple daily tasks: driving, walking freely around the house without someone holding onto each arm, taking medication, paying bills, hearing and participating in conversations, signing his own name, even reading the clock on the wall.
When living alone was no longer an option for him I saw my mom and her sister complete the transition from children to parents.
I share this because I know there are many of you who have in the past and are now caring for parents. It is a difficult and humbling experience to confront major and minor lifestyle decisions on behalf of an ailing and aging parent.
Yet caring for a parent is truly a faithful fulfillment of the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your mother and father.”
According to Martin Luther’s explanation of this commandment in the small catechism, we are to “respect and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents or other authorities, but honor, serve, love and cherish them.”
As we care for the physical and spiritual needs of our parents, we are indeed extending the hand of Christ in a beautiful way.
That does not mean this task is an easy one.
In fact, it is quite difficult, especially when one questions if the right decision is being made (rehab vs. nursing care, living alone vs. assisted living, medical treatments, home nursing, meals, doctor appointments, transportation, medicine, wills, living wills, finances and more).
In my grandfather’s final two months, it became clear that he required a level of skilled care the hands of my family could not offer at home.
As many of you know, that is a hard reality to face. In our desire to “do all and be all” for our loved ones, we often feel inadequate and like a failure.
However, the blessing for our family came when we sought the involvement of others. Looking back, getting others involved is not an admission of failure. Instead, the resources and the people who helped him ó and us ó represented the generous and loving hands of Jesus Christ.
When our hands seem inadequate, God’s grace finds us, expands our resources, and allows us to provide a level of care that can only be found with Christ at the center.
I see the Fourth Commandment more clearly now.
Not only does God call us to extraordinary faithfulness and obedience, but he also grants us the tools and other people, the wisdom and grace to carry it out.
The Rev. Ken Reed is pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, China Grove.