Tag: spiritual love

Spiritual Health in the Face of Dementia

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Have you ever ridden into a box canyon? It is difficult to see the way out and the walls threaten to cut one off from all that is normal.

Caring for a loved one challenged with dementia can feel like that. It is wearing. For those who cannot afford help it can be exhausting and frightening. All who provide care in these circumstances, paid or unpaid, need aid themselves.

Dementia is not a specific disease, according to Mayo Clinic. Rather, it “describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning”. The caregivers in such a situation become the providers of necessary daily functioning for those who seem unable.

The Mayo Clinic Staff continues with advice to caregivers in such circumstances: “Providing for a person with dementia is physically and emotionally demanding. Often the primary caregiver is a spouse or other family member. Feelings of anger and guilt, frustration and discouragement, worry, grief, and social isolation are common. If you’re a caregiver for someone with dementia: 1) Ask friends or other family members for help when you need it; 2) Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health”.

Perhaps focusing on this last point, spiritual health, would help in great measure to meet the physical and emotional needs of anyone caring for those exhibiting dementia. But how does one achieve “spiritual health”?

For me, it includes addressing fears by gaining a sense of God’s infinite love for us.

Unaddressed, fear can block our recognition of needed answers in giving care, it can overwhelm us in apprehension for our own safety, and plummet one into a sense of depression.

But when fear is spiritually overcome the practical impact can be liberating. The perfect example of this was when Christ Jesus, whose fearlessness consistently brought healing, encountered a tragically insane Gadarene man called Legion. Despite this man’s miscreant reputation, self-destructive tendencies, and social isolation, Jesus spoke with him normally and showed his Christly love for one who’d probably never received such restorative attention. That fearless care not only calmed him but cured him permanently.

Could this be possible today? Yes. Even the Mayo report allows, “Some causes of dementia may be reversible”. So, why shouldn’t a caregiver, expressing sufficient spiritual love, not only overcome his or her own fear but extend this sense of God’s love to the one being cared for such that the condition may abate? Over many years in the periodicals of my church there are accounts of various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, being reversed through a spiritual understanding of God’s healing love.

Many in the business of extending care to humanity have found strength in a more divine motivation for doing their work. I find this statement from a seminal writing on the relationship between spirituality and health encouraging: “It is proverbial that Florence Nightingale and other philanthropists engaged in humane labors have been able to undergo without sinking fatigues and exposures which ordinary people could not endure. The explanation lies in the support which they derived from the divine law, rising above the human. The spiritual demand, quelling the material, supplies energy and endurance surpassing all other aids, and forestalls the penalty which our beliefs would attach to our best deeds.” (S cience and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 385)

Filled with love for God and mankind, divine inspiration can lead us out of the box canyon of apprehension, lifting our thoughts above the shadowy dimensions of caregiving, and brightening the way of those in our charge.

This article was published in the Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper, August 5, 2015.

Love Leads Out of Hopelessness

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Sitting at my desk, I look at a painting which depicts a young Lakota daughter leading her horse out of the trees into a clearing. It speaks to me of the spiritually innate nature of love, which we each possess, that can help lead the lost out of darkness.

Arizona has over twenty tribal entities of indigenous Americans. They make up one quarter of the State. How fortunate we are to be in their midst. I recently visited the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States, Old Oraibi, on the Third Mesa in the Hopi nation. Aside from the persistent winds, it is quiet. The animals are not shy; they are friendly ­ like the somewhat hidden community. There is a spiritual peace and modest strength in this place, despite the obvious needs. It is difficult not to love these people and to connect with their love of all that is around them.

In contrast, I was moved by an article in The Christian Science Monitor (April 13) that addresses high teen suicide rates on native American reservations ­ a health problem for them and for all of us, as we do not live in isolation. The article cites experts who say this situation includes unemployment, alcoholism, drugs, school dropout rates, poverty and deprivation, all adding up to a sense of hopelessness.

This challenging condition is not limited to reservations, of course, but can be found everywhere. How is hopelessness displaced? The article mentions traditional tribal concepts such as having compassion for others, comforting those who are in pain, and interacting with those who exhibit suicidal tendencies. Also, the local reinforcement of cultural identity helps dissipate a sense of not belonging.

But is there more that could be done?

Yes. Hopelessness need not lead to mental darkness and depression, nor the taking of one’s life. This is not a new challenge. And, while some economic resources may well be part of the solution, as indicated in the Monitor article, the spiritual resources needed to break the cycle of depression are not limited nor are they untested.

One can read in the Scriptures where the prophet Elijah was sent to a widow in a distant town to find nourishment. When he approached her, he learned that she was planning to take two sticks, make a fire, and cook the last meal for her and her infant son, and then die. As a widow in her society, at that time, there was no purpose for her life and she could not sustain herself. But Elijah asked her not to be afraid, to forego her intent, and make a small cake for him first. She did. The outcome was that “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry”*. Elijah gave her the supply she most needed ­ the recognition of being loved by God, the infinite, divine Source of all good. And, when she expressed her understanding of that idea by defying her fear of lack and acting unselfishly, that brought to light the practical provision she needed.

That capacity to prove the practicality of spiritual good is possible for all of us today. A woman of spiritual depth and love for mankind, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote this statement on the first page of her seminal work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, ­­­ a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.” Understanding just how much God loves us and expressing that by our love for others can lift us and them out of the darkness of fear and hopelessness.

We need not be bystanders. There is enough inherent love in each of us to see and support this generation’s emergence from whatever darkness threatens their sense of identity. Like that young Lakota daughter leading her horse out of the trees to a clearing, we should pray to see this generation led by divine Love into the “clearing” where their life­purpose is fully evident and their path to fulfillment is engaged.

*I Kings 17:14 (NIV)

Published April 22, 2015, Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper, Globe, AZ