He is sitting here beside me. Once so full of energy, and chatty, he is mostly quiet now.
The body is old; the mind has become weak. He, who once was the breadwinner in the home, the driver, the man who fixed whatever needed fixing, is now dependent on help in the simple tasks of daily life. Once in a while he tells stories from his childhood, from the wartime in Europe. But the thought process is getting slower. This is the result of dementia.
However, he is full of thankfulness. Looking at his face, he radiates joy. The words we hear most often are, “Thank you!” And “I am so thankful!” Doesn’t it seem strange? A man who has lost his independence, who mostly sits in a chair all day long, being so thankful?
What is the secret to this life, this radiance? When he was a young man he heard that he could follow in the footsteps of Jesus, He who did no sin. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.’” 1. Peter 2:21-22.
This amazing and powerful verse opened a new world for him. He had been a Christian already, but was used to a life where he kept doing things he knew were wrong, and really only turning to Jesus to be forgiven. Now he learned to actually follow Jesus: step by step to deny the sin that he found when he was tempted. Instead of continuously coming to the cross for forgiveness, he could take up his cross and come to an overcoming life. A life where, through help and strength from God, he no longer had to sin!
It was a battle; it took time, but he kept on. As time went on, he became increasingly happy. And those around him began to see the results. He, who used to get angry with his children, became gentle and kind to them. Instead of complaining, he became a happy man. Putting off the pride, stubbornness, self-seeking and whatever other sins the Spirit pointed out cost something. He had to give up his own will, and opinions that were in opposition to God’s will. It didn’t come naturally. It didn’t come easily. It was a fight, requiring total faithfulness, every moment of every day. Was it worth it?
The outcome of a faithful life
His beaming face gives the answer. If you ask him how he is today, the answer is always “fine!” It’s not a superficial answer; he really means it. Every day is a good day. There is no trace of complaining, bitterness, or discontentment. This is a result of the work that went on in his inner man during his life. He is full of the rest and peace that comes from a life of faithfulness to his God.
When I think of him I am often reminded of the words in 1 Peter 3:10-11: “For He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.”
“God has done a work in me,” he says, with a big smile. What a beautiful way to spend his last years here on earth! In joyful expectation of the eternal reward he will get for a life spent serving God.