Failing the Test

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God gives me tests. Really obvious ones. And I fail.

Take yesterday, for example. I’d already helped my 95 year old mother-in-law get dressed and eat breakfast. We’d had a nice visit out on the deck enjoying the morning breeze, before the day got too hot. When she tired of that I used her Roku to turn on a church service for her. She usually enjoys this and it gives me an hour or so to have my own devotions.

SometimesI read I Thessalonians chapter five. I read from two different versions and I copied these verses in my journal…

  • comfort the discouraged
  • help the weak/ take tender care of those who are weak
  • be patient with everyone
  • rejoice always
  • pray constantly
  • give thanks in everything

I was contemplating these verses when I heard something in the kitchen. So, I went to check it out. There was Mom, standing by the fruit bowl, about to peel the last banana. I wouldn’t have minded that, except that at breakfast there had been a whole bowl full of bananas!

“Where are the other bananas, Mom? You didn’t eat the whole bunch, did you?” There was an empty peel or two in the bowl. I looked around. There were peels in a bag of dishes I was sorting to give away. I looked further and found peels in the waste basket.

And though I didn’t raise my voice, I did scold her. And I asked why she ate that many bananas when she’d just had breakfast. And I told her that wasn’t good for her, and she’d probably get a stomach ache. And I repeated myself several times, even though I knew my words weren’t helping her.

And the whole time I was talking to her, I questioned why I was. I knew she didn’t know better. I knew she couldn’t help it. I knew she couldn’t remember anything I was saying, even if she tried.

I wasn’t comforting her. I wasn’t taking tender care of her. I wasn’t being patient. I wasn’t rejoicing, praying, or giving thanks either!

I put up the last banana, where she wouldn’t see it, and just felt a need to leave the room. I don’t even know why it all bothered me so much, but it did! And I realized that I was being tested on what I had just read in God’s Word! I had just read it!  And I was failing.

I felt so helpless. Maybe a little like Peter when he heard the cock crow. I prayed. And I wondered why I was so weak. Why was this so hard? I’d had much tougher challenges caring for my own mom who had Alzheimer’s. My own mother screamed and swore at me and told me she hated me pretty much whenever I was bathing or changing her. She even tried to hit me occasionally.

But I always knew she couldn’t help it. And we’d have sweet loving moments, too. And though the hard stuff hurt my heart, I always felt like God gave me grace and patience for her. Why didn’t I have that patience now?

I prayed, “I need your grace, Lord. I know I’m failing this test. I know Mom is doing the best she can. Please help me to do the best I can.”

I’d like to say I instantly rose up and lovingly took care of my mother-in-law. But in reality I stewed and felt sorry for myself and mourned my own failings for several more minutes. I even climbed in my bed and asked God if I could just stay there!

But He kept gently prompting me to, “Take tender care of those who are weak.” And He whisphered, “My grace is sufficient.” So after a few minutes, I pulled myself out of bed and went to check on Mom.

I found her sitting on her couch, sleeping. She looked really tired. I asked her how she was and she mumbled incoherent things and moaned some. “I think maybe you’re not feeling well because you ate so many bananas. Maybe you’d like to go to bed and take a nap.”

She nodded in agreement. I helped her to her bed and tucked her in under her afghan. I prayed with her asking God to heal her and help her feel better.

She took a long nap and woke up smiling. I’m thankful she’s ok.

And I think about the truth, that God taught me so much as I raised six children. Parenting is so educational! And caregiving is too. It’s humbling. It’s character growing.  It stretches. It tests.

It reveals what’s in my heart and sometimes I don’t like what I see there. But there’s a gift in that, too. It shows me how much I need Jesus. It makes me grateful for His love and forgiveness. It calls me to depend on Him more.

I failed this test. But there will be more. Jesus didn’t give up on Peter, and He’s not giving up on me.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…” 2 Corinthians 12:9a (NKJV)

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16 comments

  1. I’d offer that you didn’t so much fail a test as had a moment where recognizing an opportunity was obscured. This last year (and longer) has been full of such opportunities, met with as much grace as possible.
    Perhaps you needed to crawl into bed, a bed of the Father’s lap, and like any other child have a moment. Sometimes, adults though we are, it’s hard to control our emotions and offer them up in service and sacrifice to the other. Be gentle with yourself. You are worth that same care you extend to others.

  2. That definitely ministered to my heart this morning. I’m in the middle of my journey with my Mom. Sometimes the ugliness that rises up in me is just so disheartening. It is SUCH a refining process. Thank you for articulating it so well.

    1. It is such a refining process! I so relate! Thank you for letting me know this ministered to you. It always blesses me to hear something I’ve shared is meaningful to someone else. God bless! ~Cheryl

  3. This hit me so very hard. I am dealing with early onset of dementia with my mom. Even though we have not always had the best relationship, I, along wiht my sister, are trying to take care of her. It is so not easy, and I feel resentful and angry so many times. When that next time arises, I will pray for God’s grace for all of us. Also, any and all prayers for me would be appreciated. She is tired and wants to leave this earth but that does not seem to be God’s plan for her.

    1. I’m sorry, Judy. I know it’s so challenging. My mother-in-law used to say frequently that she wanted to die, too. I don’t hear her say that anymore, but she often seems to be in despair. It’s a hard road to be on, but God does give grace and He grows us through it all. I’m praying for you and your family, Judy. Hugs!

  4. Thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts as they really are a blessing. I’m right there with you…..plus I’m raising 6 kids too! I love how God puts others in our lives with such similar stories and journeys to comfort us and cheer us along this path. This past Sunday I was teaching Sunday school on how God provided the manna and quail for the Israelites. Even though they complained about everything, God was still faithful. My goodness he rescued them from Egypt, split the Red Sea, turned bitter water to good and NOW they are still wandering around grumbling, and that was all just in the 2nd book of the Bible! We really are slow learners!!! lol! He is faithful and He understands us in every moment. I do pray for you as you care for your mother-in-law. Caregivers do get weary and I pray you can give yourself some time to spend in time out with Jesus. I always feel so much relief when I just take the time to breathe and talk to Abba Father. One of my dear friends always called him daddy….don’t you just love that?! Blessings to you!

    1. I do love that! I’ve thought the same things about the Israelites and then realized I do the same things! God is faithful! And I do have frequent times with Him. But I’m still a slow learner. I’m grateful He is patient with me. Thank you for your sweet thoughts and prayers, Tammy. I so appreciate your comment!
      ~Cheryl

  5. I have had to move the bananas at our house too, leaving just one for Mom to “discover” at will. She would eat herself sick otherwise.

    I, too, have felt like a failure when it comes to putting my faith into action where caring for my mom is concerned. Each day of caregiving offers new opportunities to demonstrate the love and compassion of Christ. I stumble and fail so often, but know I’m growing in this area, as God provides opportunities to stretch my imperfect faith. Thank you for putting into words the thoughts I often have on my own heart.

    1. Thank you barefootlilylady! I appreciate your encouragement! I’m just leaving one banana out, too, now. Interesting the commonalities in all of this! God bless!

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