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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Impenetrable Wall

By Larry Hatfield
Nov. 28, 2010

Good-byes are difficult. They are almost unbearable when they fall within the context of Alzheimer’s disease. Loved ones who have moved into that mysterious realm of the unknown are still with us — yet not with us. “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children” (Psalm 69:8, KJV). It is as if a thick curtain severs all communication. The wall of separation seems impregnable. The frustration is unbelievable.

We can only speculate what might be taking place behind the blank stares and empty expressions. What emotions do they experience? Do these people, to whom even lifelong companions seem alien, retain relationship with God? The Lord promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Will this promise hold up even in the clouded world of Alzheimer’s?

I visit a rest home nearly every day. One of the residents, an elderly lady, has this terrible disease. Her life has been a model of graciousness. On each visit I have to explain who I am and why I’m here, knowing full well I will need to explain again tomorrow.

The other day I paused by her wheelchair looking down into that all-too-familiar blank stare, challenged by the unyielding silence. If only there was a way to penetrate the barrier. All previous attempts had resulted in checkmate.

On a whim I took her hand and said, “Jesus loves you, doesn’t He?”

Her eyes lit up as she responded, “Uh-huh!”

Then I said, “And you love Him too, don’t you?”

Again she enthusiastically responded, “Uh-huh!” And then the lights went out again. Any further conversation proved futile.

As I navigated the hallway bottleneck of wheelchairs that resembled a freeway traffic jam, a deep peace came over me. Suddenly I realized that this woman, who no longer recognized her own flesh and blood, still enjoyed a relationship with God that nothing — not even Alzheimer’s — could sever.

Moments later, I sat in my car wiping away tears. As I contemplated what had just taken place, I heard the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit.

Why were you surprised at her reaction? Can you not trust Me? Didn’t I promise? Am I not able to keep my Word?

Then I remembered something written nearly two millennia ago by a man who knew a lot about isolation:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

Perhaps the mystery surrounding this disease will remain concealed until a day of God’s own choosing. Until then we can take comfort in the fact that God is as real and as present on one side of the blockade as the other. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7, NIV).

There obviously is more taking place behind the blank stares than those of us on this side know anything about. Think of it! We refer to these venerable saints in declining years as shut-ins. Perhaps they’re not shut-ins after all. Maybe they’re just shut in with God!

LARRY HATFIELD retired this year as senior pastor of Grand Assembly of God in Chickasha, Okla.

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