I know an old woman who worries about outliving her partner and most of her family and friends. The grief of that anticipated loss messes with her sleep. And the fear. With them gone, who’ll look out for her? She doesn’t want to die alone.
Above all, love each other deeply… Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace. – 1 Peter 4:8-10 (NIV)
She confided all this to a friend. His advice? Join a church. Church people will take care of you, he said. You won’t be alone.
She was taken aback by how crass and self-interested his advice felt. Hi, I’m Sally, I’m old and getting older. I’m joining your church so I won’t be alone. What kind of reason is that? If people knew she’d come hoping for a few visits and a casserole someday, wouldn’t they feel used? She decided he must be kidding. He wasn’t.
I don’t know whether she’ll do it, but I hope so, because her friend is right. Anyone who’s ever been lucky enough to be part of a loving church knows it. To approach such a community for company and care isn’t selfish. It’s giving that church a chance to be church.
Some Christians think that the church is most fully what Christ intends only when it’s publicly engaged in the struggle against the sinful systems of our unjust world. But the world’s axis also tilts towards God’s dream whenever some random old woman (or anyone at all) comes to us to be accompanied and is met with open arms.
Join a church. They’ll take care of you.
- Would you feel put upon if someone started coming to your church so that they would not be alone, or with the expectation that the church would actively help them in their last years?
- Old folks are often lonely. Do elders in your church have a way to share their fears and receive encouragement?
- If you are an old person, what do you hope for from your church?
Compassionate Christ, open your church’s arms to the lonely and fearful, no matter who, no matter why, no matter when.
About the author:
Mary Luti is a long-time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.