I am so blessed by the variety of elderly people that I get to interact with at my work place. Because we do cataract surgery, and because the majority of patients with cataracts are elderly, we get quite a diverse assortment of people to entertain us each day.
The other day we had as our patient an old Hungarian woman I will call Kate. How do I know she was Hungarian? Well, the accent was thick enough, but she also told me. I don’t know if the sedation drugs were making her talk or if she was just lonely, but I also had a little more time than usual and was able to be her listener. Kate told me of how she’s been alone for thirty years now. Her husband, who I’ll call Joseph, had passed away in his forties. I also heard how he died, and how her first pregnancy in their early years of marriage was ectopic and she was never able to have children after that. When her husband got sick and near death, he told her she could get married again when he was gone. With tears in her eyes, she looked at me and said, “I could never get married again. He was the only one.” Before he passed away, Joseph bought Kate a young parrot to keep Kate company. Oh yes – this is a true story. It was a parrot that would learn to talk so that Kate would have someone to talk to. Kate told me how she would cuddle the parrot to her chest and cry for her Joseph and the parrot would say “Don’t cry, momma. Don’t cry.” (Now I have tears in my eyes.) She taught the parrot to respond to her laments of “Where is my Joseph?” with a squawky, “Joseph is in heaven, Joseph is in heaven.” Apparently the bird could recite the Lord’s Prayer and sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ as well. The bird got ill in its young bird life and only lived eight years with Kate.
I had to hold the tears back from this sweet old woman who still missed her Joseph after thirty years. She was all alone. I suspect that the bird had given her great comfort. But I also think the bird never filled Joseph’s shoes. Kate cried for Joseph and mourned for him, but never got satisfaction. Nothing would take the place of Joseph. There were no substitutions.
I think many times we all make exchanges in life to replace the true joy and contentment that we can get from being faithful followers of Christ. When depressed and dissatisfied with life, many try drinking, drugs, excessive spending, or other compulsions to find happiness and fill the empty space in their lives. Personally, there’s nothing like chocolate or potato chips to comfort any stress that may be boring a hole in me. It doesn’t fix things. Sure tastes good, though.
Romans 1:21-23, 25 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Poor Kate. I wanted to take her home with me. I wanted her to be happy. But the lesson to me was that we can find solace in all things through Christ. Only He can fill all voids and heal all hurts. There are no substitutions.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Don’t waste your life looking for happiness through things of this world. Christ is the way the truth and the life. You won’t find contentment through the things you idolize, or even a talking parrot.
There are no substitutions.