This is part two, of a two-part series, about Eric, age forty-six, admitted to hospice with terminal cancer. In part one, “God is a Heart God”; Eric suggested that “Entertainers always present an image that they want to look like.” When I suggested that we all do, Eric replied, “But God is a heart God…Men look on the outside but God looks at the heart, on the inside. The mind can be fooled but not the heart.”
Eric’s parents, Lawrence and Rindi are in their eighties and are tough-minded country folk. Eric’s father, Lawrence, bragged about his wife, Rindi, “She can work like a man. When we built our house she climbed up the rafters like a man and helped put on the roof.”
Lawrence was a Marine, a machine gunner, in the South Pacific, during World War II. He reflected, “You had to do what you had to do. When the war started I hated the Japanese, but by the time the war was over, I didn’t hate them anymore. They were just men like us.” Lawrence worked most of his life in brick factories before the age of automation; therefore he hand carried, wheelbarrowed and stacked bricks. He concluded, “I wore out my knees”, which was evident as I watched him teeter across the front yard like a man on stilts.
One afternoon, after visiting Eric, I encountered Lawrence and Rindi outside as I was leaving. They were reorganizing their garage. Rindi asked, “Do you notice any changes in Eric?” I asked Rindi the same question in return and she replied, “He’s eating, but he’s still losing weight.” Then Lawrence asked, “He’s in bad shape isn’t he?” When I agreed with his evaluation, Lawrence covered his face with his thick calloused right hand and stumbled backward. I don’t know if his knees gave out or if he was overcome with emotion, or perhaps both. Rindi declared, “I’ll do anything I can for Eric.”
We talked about how none of us are perfect, either as parents or as caregivers. There will always be something more we could have said or done. I shared the Bible passage, “…love will cover a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8) We talked about how, when it’s all said and done, the important thing is that the person knew that we loved them. Then Lawrence summed it up, “Love is the top dog, isn’t it?”
The same is true in our relationship with God. Peter’s life is a testimony. After eating the “Last Supper” with his disciples, Jesus predicted, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me tonight”. But Peter declared, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble…Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” (Matthew 26:31- 35) But that same night, as Peter watched the Jews beat and mock Jesus in the courtyard, he denied even knowing Jesus; not just once, but three times. And on the third time…”When the rooster crowed, then the Lord turned and looked at Peter…Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord…So Peter went out and wept bitterly.”(Mark 14: 54-60)
Can you imagine the guilt and shame that Peter felt that night! He’d denied the very One he swore that he would die for. But when Jesus arose from the grave and appeared to Peter He didn’t browbeat him; He didn’t point out how Peter had stumbled and failed; He didn’t even say, “I told you so!” Jesus simply asked Peter, not once but three times, once for each time Peter had denied him, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? And Peter responded each time, “Lord you know I do”. Then Jesus exhorted Peter, “Then feed my sheep”. You see, Jesus doesn’t disqualify us when we fail; He simply exhorts us to “get back in the game”. You see, His love for us “covers a multitude of sins”.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love… I am nothing… And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love,” (1 Corinthians, chapter 13). Or in Lawrence’s words, “Love is the top dog.”
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.