What My Mom is Teaching Me about 1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

I’ve read 1 Corinthians 13 a thousand times. I’ve quoted it at weddings and used Paul’s writing to remind well-intentioned friends that having the right answers doesn’t give them permission to hurt other people. I know most of this chapter by heart.

I thought I knew what it meant. Then, I was taken to the school of Scripture Applied to Real Life. Like most Scripture, the verses of 1 Corinthians 13 take on a different meaning when they become the text of your life.

The last several months have been difficult for our family. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. I had to move her to an assisted living facility near where I live to care for her. I had to move her against her will. (If you’re driving along I-65 south of Nashville, you’ll see two large ruts along the highway where I had to drag my mom up here.) Every day she tells me she’s leaving and I can’t keep her here. Every day she complains that I’ve thrown her in prison…

And every day is a little worse than the day before. It’s the nature of the disease. This is our new reality. This is hard because my mother is one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. To see her like this breaks my heart. She still has plenty to say. She’s not short on opinions. I get an earful every day. But it’s different now.

I took care of her taxes. She got mad because I used a different accountant.

I pay her bills. She gets mad that I use the computer and don’t handwrite the checks.

 No matter what I do or how well I do it, she gets mad. And that’s just part of it. She’s mad—she’s mad at life, she’s mad at the illness, and she needs somewhere to express that anger. So, she yells at me. She knows I’m not going anywhere. She knows I won’t leave.

I am, after all, her son. I’ll do the right thing just like she taught me. And when she yells at me, I’ll remember 1 Corinthians 13. Love keeps loving even when love doesn’t come back. Love doesn’t keep a list of who owes whom. (If it did, I’d still be in debt to her.) Love does what’s best for the beloved even when it doesn’t feel good to do it. Love doesn’t give up.

I’m learning a lot about love.

The next time I preach from 1 Corinthians 13, I’ll do a much better job. I understand it at an entirely different level now.

My mom taught me all about it.

Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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12 thoughts on “What My Mom is Teaching Me about 1 Corinthians 13

  1. Mike,

    I went to Huntsville Park Baptist with your mom and dad and they were good friends. I was in Johns Sunday School Class. Your mother was a very gracious lady who was admired by all.

    The message about love is very good. For those people who have never experience taking care of
    parents or currently in the process, will find 1st corinthians 13 and your message very helpful.

    Give Barbara my regards and maybe she will remember me from Huntsville Park.

    A friend in Christ,
    Don Posey

  2. powerful words
    Makes me grateful that my own Mom and Dad had all their wits about them until they passed away.
    Do know what it’s like to be full time caretaker, moved them here to better care for them, does change life dramatically, role reversal, wouldn’t trade it for the world, best 4 years of my life, to be with them every day until they passed. Try to find God’s Blessing to you in the midst of the pain. Always a lesson He teaches us especially in our most painful moments.
    My parents came to know The Lord before they passed! That was worth everything.

  3. Mike
    My heart goes out to you and your Mom. As you know both Debbie and I lived with this with both of our mothers for over 6 years. It is not easy, but GOD does teaches us a lot as the caregiver. For me patients was the greatest aspect of love I learned. I often talked with my Mom about all the great memories we shared and how she was the glue that kept our family united as the years past. I found also that she shared a lot with even in her loneliness. As time passes even as they become less responsive I am convinced that they feel your presence and the compassionate love that you have for them.
    We love you and know your faith will carry you through this difficult journey!
    David & Debbie Ward

  4. Mike,
    My dad is losing it, a bit every time I see or talk to him. His personality is him some days and he is a different person other days. Thank you for openly sharing your struggles. It will be a great encouragement to many, I’m sure. I’ll pray for your journey through this season of life.

  5. My mom volunteers at The Frist and took your mom and Beverly on a tour of the exhibits there last week. My mom said yours was a lovely and interesting lady with a lot of stories. I think they’re all planning another outing. That being said, thank you for the reminder to cherish these wonderful women and love them as they’ve loved us and as God loves us. Especially with Mother’s Day so quickly approaching.

  6. God bless you, my Brother. You will never know how your and the church’s ministry has blessed me, and I just wanted to thank you.

  7. You and your wife are in our prayers daily. Really. Having lost my mom 6 months ago and moving her from Houston to here, each day was a new challemge. And now remembering back, it was a privilege and an honor to have taken care of her in her last months. Know that when you get to heaven and see your mom, she will tell you how grateful she was that y’all took such loving care of her when she was unable to express it. Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. In what seems like a lifetime ago I worked in a nursing home for about seven years and primarily cared for patients like your mother. Some better, some worse I suppose. While the work was extraordinarily difficult at times, looking back, it was an absolute privilege to have done that. To have witnessed husbands or wives of 50/60/70 years come in daily to care for their spouse or to have sons and daughters visit their parents and just the range of emotions that can cause. It’s just a very real life experience that many hope they will never have to deal with and leaves many in their deepest thoughts asking: God, what did we do to deserve this? It can be very hard to deal with but at the same time quite beautiful. It’s not something you would ever wish on someone but I think, because it’s such a hidden world, that many people would benefit from getting to experience it as caregivers.

  9. Mike thank you for sharing your heart and words about your Mother. It must be really hard to hear some of the things she says but I know God will protect you from that hurt.
    Sue Eggert

  10. Hang in there, Mike. I took care of my aunt who had Alziemers for 12 years. She died in January. I miss her.

  11. Bro Mike, I can’t tell you how much your story about your mom and my mother match. My mother stays mad about where she is, (she’s now at Grace Health Care Center in Franklin) and wants me to take her home everyday when I visit. She too has dementia and is convince my dad (died in 2004) is alive and her parents (died in the 50’s)are alive and live close by but I won’t find them so she can go live with them. It’s very depressing to see her this way especially since along with the dementia her cognitive level has dropped way down (she can’t get the hang of bingo after being a computer operator for years). With 10,000 people turning 65 everyday in this country, we are looking at a tidal wave of this life situation. Praying for you and your mother Bro Mike! Tony

  12. Mike, been there, done that. I understand. It gets even harder when she doesn’t know who you are. My mother was a very strong person. When my dad, a pastor, died at age 62, my mother who was 56 at the time felt God calling her as a missionary to Japan.She went there for 8 years. She was the best Bible teacher I ever heard, and had 3 converts in Japan who became ministers. I was her caregiver when she began going through all of her problems, and it was hard to cope with. You just lovingly go through it. I believe it’s harder when she doesn’t remember who you are. I would go visit, and she’d ask my name. I would say, “Rita” and she would say, “Oh, I have a daughter named Rita”. At least when she’s giving you a bad time, there is still that connection. Cried a lot when she didn’t know who I was. Praise God, she’s now with the Lord.
    I will continue to pray for you, knowing what you are going through and what lies ahead.