Last week, I shared that I need the hope my faith gives me more than ever due to some circumstances in my life that have been making me feel hopeless.
This week, I got to taste a tiny bit of freedom, the sweet fruit of God’s patient faithfulness with us humans. I can’t wait to tell you about it.
But first, we have to go back to last year, when I saw my mother in person for the first time since 2007. It was a huge deal for both of us, a huge statement that despite all the bad memories, I felt strong enough to hope that our relationship could be better in the future. Jesus alone gave me that strength as well as the willingness to reach out in love again after all these years. We ended up having a great time together.
There was one thing, though, I wasn’t prepared to see. I knew my mom lived in a group home and had for years. She’d often complained to me about it on the phone, said it was no place for anyone to live, but I’d thought she was exaggerating, her prideful nature unable to accept how much help she really needed these days. Surely they took good enough care of her, right?
I’ll never forget my first sight of the place: the broken furniture, the threadbare institutional carpet, the limp colorless food being served up for lunch, the smell of cigarette smoke and decay that pervaded everything. I saw one of the numerous overworked staff members sweeping the carpeted floor with a broom, presumably because there was no working vacuum cleaner or even carpet sweeper.
My mom was right. It was no place for anyone to live.
I came back from my visit rejoicing at how well things had gone between Mom and me, thanking God for the courage that had helped me reopen this relationship. But as I settled back into my life, I felt again like Jesus was tapping on my shoulder: Hey. The work of Love isn’t done here. You know you wouldn’t want to see Me treated like that.
After much further bothering from Jesus and much prayer, because I am really slow about these things, I decided I wanted to help my mom find a better place to live, if I could. An intrepid church friend of mine joined me on this mission, since he’d had a job years ago evaluating group homes and he knew how to scout out the good ones. We made a list of possibilities in Mom’s area, and I started calling them.
The first thing I found was that most of the possibilities… were not actually possibilities. Many of the homes were private-pay only. This meant they would not accept my mom, who lives on disability, because they couldn’t charge her more than a certain amount by law. I found out that only very few places in the area were not private-pay only. Of these, I’d heard good things about one particular place. I called her, hoping against hope it would seem like a good situation. It did, over the phone at least, and the owner told me she had a current opening.
End of story? Not by a long shot. Even after my mom had met the owner and ended up hitting it off with her. There were so many logistics involved in moving: money, medical matters complicating Mom’s care, not to mention her own fear of change.
Also, the new place wasn’t perfect, and there were real cons to be weighed against the pros of moving there. I still felt strongly it would be much better than the old place, but for awhile I feared my mom would rather stay with the evil she knew. I started to lose hope, especially as I watched my other family member go into a downward spiral. Like the Israelites, I doubted whether all this was going anywhere, whether God really was leading my journey.
Slowly, almost without my noticing, the obstacles fell one by one. As of yesterday, Mom is moved into her new place. Like I said, it’s not perfect either, but she will be in a place with much more caring staff, a homey atmosphere, and greater dignity. And I rejoice at that.
It’s just one small step toward freedom for one woman. There are so many others still stuck in the old group home, a place that keeps their bodies alive but undermines their souls with an atmosphere of hopelessness. And all over the country, there are overworked and underpaid caregivers whose dignity is also stolen by such working environments. I know God wants true freedom for them all.
And yet, I rejoice in this one step, this one victory that once seemed impossible. Now I can see God clearly leading again, like a flame that can light our way through the night.