Locations & Times

Fearful of Love

by Jeff Lucas on February 21, 2024

Looking back, it wasn’t the greatest idea. The care home had warned that my mother was just days from dying. Agitation was robbing her of sleep, and so I decided: I would sit with her through the night. Mum was at the tail end of a decade-long battle with dementia. At times, the fog lifted and she was smiling. Coherent. But then, like the thick mist that shrouds the foothills in the early morning, the wretched confusion would return. Sometimes, she didn’t recognize me, and she would actually complain about me to me…

And so I settled in for the long vigil. To be brutally honest, I felt rather noble and a little smug as I sat perched on the hard wooden chair at the bedside, my hand clasped in hers as she snored. I wondered if this night shift was more for me than for her; surely our motives are always mixed.

But then, at around 2 a.m., she woke up with a start, and sat bolt upright in bed, her eyes wide with fear.

“What are you doing here,” she yelled, pondering my face in the lowlight of the bedside lamp. 

“Mum, it’s me, Jeffrey. I thought I’d stay with you…” (only my mother called me Jeffrey, and Kay dubs me Jeffrey when I’ve done something bad, which, as you’ve guessed, is not very often…).

“You…you’re no good…get out,” she hollered, her lips curled with rage.

“But…but Mum, I just wanted to…”

“Get out! Now!” I decided that it would probably be good if I did just that, so I beat a hasty retreat and sat outside her room.

Half an hour later, I tried again, peering anxiously around her doorway. “Mum?”

“Get out,” she snarled.

And so I did. Excluded for the rest of that night, I realized my folly. When someone suffering from dementia wakes in the small hours and discovers what seems to be a total stranger not only perched at their bedside but holding their hand too, they are likely to scream with terror.

But then I pondered how very like my Mum I am — and you too bear some of the same family traits, you being a human being and all. The blunt truth is this: feeling at home with God doesn’t come naturally to us. 

The God who is love draws near, nail-torn hands outstretched, inviting. At times, we catch a glimpse of that beautiful heart of His, and we settle, at rest in His presence. But then comes the mist. Cloud banks formed by harsh religion, flawed parenting, the chill of rejection — they billow and swirl in our minds, and we recoil, desperate that He might just go away. The prodigal son wails, “I’m not worthy” and struggles in the arms of his father’s embrace. Peter almost went on strike when Jesus insisted on washing his sweaty feet, backing away from such selfless care. But with Jesus, this is the non-negotiable deal: we have to let Him wash us. Love us.

Thankfully, help is available to calm our fears. Paul told the Galatian Christians, “Because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Gal 4:6) And he wrote to the church in Rome, “Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (Rom 8:15–16). Abba is the very same Aramaic word that Jesus used when addressing God the Father. The work of the Holy Spirit in us enables us to exclaim with relief that we are safe in Christ, as secure with God as Jesus is with the Father.

After an exhausting night parked outside my Mum’s room, morning came, ending my time of banishment. Tapping lightly on her door, I found her awake, a look of peace on her face. Nervously I ventured, “Mum, it’s me, Jeffrey.”

“I know who you are,” she smiled, “And you’re very nice.” It was one of the last sentences she spoke to me; within days she was gone.  

As the Easter season starts to draw nearer, we remember the price He paid at the cross and the victory that was His at the empty tomb. He is risen — risen for us, our great rescuer.

Perhaps what I’m about to suggest will offend some, thinking that it’s too sentimental, inadequate to describe this wonderful, mighty God of ours, but to whisper this prayer might be a step in the right direction. 

Lord, I know who you are. You are mighty, loving, full of grace, wonderful. And you’re very nice.

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