A Caring Conundrum: Caring For Young And Old
“Conundrum, noun, a confusing and difficult problem or question….”
Recently my wife and I gathered for a family reunion in North Carolina near to the place where my ninety-five-year-old mother lives in a beautiful assisted living facility. Both our children and their spouses, as well as all of our six grandchildren, were there. Two of the grandchildren, aged 3 ½ months and 19 months, are still in diapers. I got to change a couple.
My mom fortunately is not at the stage that some people her age are in—where they have regressed to diapers. We thank God, and yet it happens, and it could happen to any of us if we live long enough.
Thinking about this caused me to reflect on how my own attitudes towards changing a baby’s diaper (which I have done many times) and changing an older person’s diaper (which I have not yet done) differ. Maybe it’s just because I lack the experience, but I can cheerily change a baby’s diaper, whereas the thought of changing the diaper of an older loved one is more off-putting to me.
I wondered why, and two reasons came to mind: First of all babies are cute. Older people do not seem so cute. Secondly, every baby is a potential darling child, adorable teenager, and fully formed independent adult. The immediate future of babies seems bright, and their having to be changed is temporary. But older adults, humanly speaking, do not have a bright future. Whatever ravages of age have brought them to the state they are in will likely only intensify until their deaths. And to the secular mind, death seems the ultimate result of old age.
These are two reasons why thinking about changing the diaper of an adult might repel us. But I think Christian faith dissolves these reasons, in three ways.
First, of all, I suspect that when changing the diaper of one we love deeply, no matter what their age, love wins out. We see them—and their need-- through the eyes of love.
Second, while babies, externally, may be cuter, seeing older people through God’s eyes focuses us on the eternal, which is not seen with our eyes but with our hearts. II Corinthians 4:16-17 says, “So we aren’t depressed.
But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.” (Common English Bible). Paul there says that older people who are in Christ are wearing out on the outside, but God is renewing them every day on the inside!
Third, looking at it in a solely human centered and materialistic way, we may think that babies have a bright future and older people have no future. But in the verse I just quoted Paul says that for the one who belongs to Jesus Christ, all our problems, including aging, are producing an eternal stockpile of glory beyond comparison.
The older person who has lost many physical and intellectual faculties has a bright future in Christ, and they will one day receive a resurrection body which is bright, shining, and perfect in every way!
As Paul puts it, “this slight momentary affliction is not worthy of comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us.” (II Corinthians 4:16, my translation.)
To me, seeing this conundrum through the eyes of God changes everything. It is no longer a problem or conundrum.
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at