Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind..
“I’ll be right back mom,” I assure her as I step out of the hotel room we share in beautiful Victoria BC. It feels so good to step out of my mom’s world even if it is just for a few minutes to discuss the day’s plans with the rest of my family. But I can’t be gone long. She will quickly forget why she is alone in a strange room and panic will set in.
I (and my siblings) define my mom’s security. We are a link to her past, which she longs to restore to her future and define her “now” by. Visiting Victoria and its Butchart Gardens delights her. This beautiful city holds memories of past vacations we enjoyed as a family. Today, she is intent upon visiting the max museum, which she fondly remembers having toured years ago. We walk downtown and she confidently directs us to a building she believes to be the museum. Surprisingly she is right – we are standing on the exact location of the attraction demolished years ago. She describes replicas of people like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe who she remembers seeing. But all this is gone, a new fact she can’t retain however. “Let’s go see the wax museum,” she asks again. Her “present” dissipates quickly leaving her to contend with a mirage of confusion. That is the reality of my mom who suffers with Alzheimer’s.
I visit my mom often and am grateful for the opportunities to spend time with her. As I reflect back on this past weekend in Victoria, I wish I could say that I authentically “counted it all joy. ” Instead at times I found myself growing impatient and at others times I grumbled silently over the constant interruptions. When she fired accusations at me in an attempt to salvage a measure of reason within herself, my need to be right wanted to raise its ugly head. “You should have told me our room number,” she said, “so that I won’t get lost.” I had just gone over the room number, but as I looked into my mom’s eyes and saw her need to feel OK about herself I recognized my own pride and let it pass.
Our family members, the ones we love the most, are the relationships by which our true character is revealed. Who I really am comes out when I am working through tough issues with those closest to me. If I sincerely cry out to the Lord to “create in me a clean heart,” I see how easily I can grow impatient with my mom. If I authentically desire for the Lord to “renew a right spirit in me,” I recognize my tendency to grow frustrated over her constant interruptions. This past weekend, I discerned pride in my responses when my mom would accuse me.
Just like a young child, she tries my patience, inconveniences my plans and blames me for what happens. Time with my mom is exhausting. I have a choice to respond harshly or gently; to expect her to change or for me to grow. These are opportunities God is using to refine me and I am learning to relish them no matter how uncomfortable it feels.
Just as we desire obedience to flow from the hearts of our kids, so must our actions as adults . I can faithfully serve my mom, but I desire to see it flow more from my heart and not merely from my efforts. The more I examine myself, and allow the Lord to “test my heart and my mind,” genuine integrity begins to develop within.