“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” II Corinthians 4:16
Brother Claude joined my family for Thanksgiving dinner in 2016. Kristine goes all out for my favorite holiday, fixing all the traditional favorites as well as some Harrison family specials. We usually have enough food to feast on for four or five days in a row.
I picked Claude up around 11 and we got down to eating around one in the afternoon. A little while after lunch he made me aware that he had to use the facilities so we wheeled him over to the restroom door and quickly realized that, even if I took the door off the hinges, his chair wasn’t going to fit through. Our home was obviously not up to the American Disabilities Act guidelines.
Before I go on, I need to tell you a little bit about Claude’s background. After college, he joined the Air Force and became a pilot. During his time in the service he received two Flying Cross medals, a Bronze Star, and a Legion of Merit, just to name a few. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and went on to have a career in real estate and as a broker for Merrill Lynch. This was a man who understood dignity, power and success. Now back to the restroom.
We stood (well Claude sat) at the door of the bathroom deciding how we would approach the task at hand. I got into the room and stood facing him, preparing to pull him up out of his chair. Claude lined the chair up with the doorway and engaged the brake. With a coordinated effort, I took him by the hands and pulled him upward, wrapping my arms around his chest and under his armpits as he stabilized himself on the bathroom sink with his left hand. I then proceeded to half carry/half drag him to the front of the toilet. At this point, Claude had his right hand on the wall and his left hand still clutching the sink basin.
I moved around Claude so that I could stabilize him from behind. It was at this point that I realized both of his hands were occupied keeping himself upright, preventing him from falling over. This meant that it was my job to help with his pants and undergarments. Thankfully, once that task was done, he leaned forward and put his head on wall for stability so that he could take care of the rest.
I stood back and watched as this former Lieutenant Colonel leaned forward with his head on the wall, clutching the sink with his left hand, so that he could go about the simple task of emptying his bladder. A process that most of us do several times a day and take for granted had become an exhausting and embarrassing experience for this dear man.
Why the story? In the scheme of things, this adventure with Brother Claude was relatively mundane. He had to rely on others all the time for more intimate physical needs like bathing and changing clothes. He handled the decaying of his body with understanding and grace. He was never under the illusion that our flesh was meant to last forever. In his life he had tasted significance, success and power but those were not things that he tried to hold on to. They were temporal and he was living for the eternal. Brother Claude’s identity was not wrapped up in titles and toys, it was rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What about you? What about me? I’d like to think that my treasures are in heaven but that is not always the case. I care too much about the approval of men. I spend too much energy chasing significance in this life. I don’t really know how I will react when the trophies of this world are stripped away from me…and they will be stripped away. One way or another we will all end up leaning our heads against the wall staring down at the toilet, metaphorically speaking.
When it is all taken away, will we have anything left?
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” I John 2:15-17