The New Year is just around the corner. In a few days, we’ll bid farewell to the old and ring in the new. But before we don our party hats, have you had time to reflect back on 2017? Was it a good year or a difficult one? Maybe you met the love of your life or maybe a close friend passed from this life into the next. Did you accomplish any goals you’d set for yourself? Or did you feel like it was more or less two steps forward and three steps back?
Every human being is born into seasons, not just those on a calendar, but seasons of our lives. We have seasons of joy ~ of unexpected blessings, reconciliation, victories and even miracles. These are the seasons we long for ~ when life is good and worries are few or nonexistent. We rest easier and feel more secure. Life is amazing on our mountaintop, a place we long to stay.
We also have seasons of pain ~ of grief and loss, of enormous challenges and overwhelming difficulties. We come face to face with our own limitations as we watch a bad day turn into a bad week into a bad month and into a bad year. There is no picking ourselves up by our bootstraps because we’ve lost them. There is no tapping into our reserves because those have been depleted. Our souls are tried and we realize the only way to survive this is to look beyond ourselves, to something or Someone bigger and more powerful than our finite and limited selves.
And while these are the seasons no one desires, it is in these times that we experience true growth. We build character and gain perspective. We think differently and live with greater purpose. And our seasons of joy, whether past or future, are no longer one-dimensional because we have something to compare them to. Joy is sweeter when you’ve experienced gut-wrenching pain. Love is more glorious when you’ve experienced rejection. Children are a greater blessing when you’ve experienced barrenness. Good health is enjoyed with more gratitude when you’ve experienced debilitating sickness or disease.
When I first learned of my Father’s dementia diagnosis, I thought this would be the beginning of a long and torturous season of pain. Perhaps our family would be able to coast for a bit while he still retained some short term memory. But we had watched his mother slowly fade away in a nursing home for a period of 10 years so we knew we were looking at the eventual erasing of my Father. How long would this season last? How would we endure it? Would he forget us? What could we do to make the most of the time we had with him?
That was thirteen years ago. And while it has not been easy, there have been many blessings. My Father still knows us. He can strike up a conversation with a total stranger and tell stories (perhaps not so accurate) of his days in the Air Force. He helps with errands and still feels needed. He enjoys crafts and singing and games with a community of people who also suffer from dementia. He still retains some independence and for the most part still sees life as a glass half full.
Recently I found Dad’s bucket list ~ a list of things he wants to do or see before he dies. We had each penned our list while on a road trip to Tennessee 6 years ago to visit relatives. He laughed when I explained why it was called a bucket list, but quickly caught on and jotted down what came to mind.
So what do you do with a list written by someone with dementia? You do everything in your power to make that list happen. You push apart the season of pain and create a season of joy right in the middle of it. It doesn’t matter if they remember the list or not. At one point in time, those were the desires of their heart. Those were the wishes of their soul. There may be things on that list that won’t come to pass. Instead of dwelling on those, focus on what’s possible. Go to another Braves game, arrange a fishing trip with the grandson and attend more country music concerts. Seasons of pain have a way of bringing clarity and determination.
Are you in a season of joy? Then relish every minute of it and enjoy it as a gift from above since every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. (James 1:17) Are you in a season of pain? Then don’t take it lying down. Don’t embrace the pain as your identity. Instead, carve out a season of joy in the midst of that pain. Learn whatever lessons you must learn. Remember that this season is temporary and don’t lose hope. Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)
Know that the Someone bigger and more powerful than our finite and limited selves is the same God who created you and loves you with a love stronger than your worst season of pain. And He has plans not to harm you but to prosper you, give you hope and a future.
Happy New Year.