Making Something from Nothing
Someone recently asked me, “When was the last time you made something from nothing?” At first I was baffled. Based on my understanding, God is the only Being who has created something from nothing. Ex nihilo.
Then I got to thinking. When was the last time I watched God produce something in my life I knew I was lacking? Memories came to me, and I decided to share them along with my answer to this question.
When my father was diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2009, my parents moved near me so he could be close to our hospital for cancer care and so a son could be nearby. What I didn’t realize at the beginning was how I would be called on to serve as a caregiver in so many ways.
I knew nothing about this role and didn’t know how best to help my parents. I had so much to learn, and I learned by doing—by literally making something out of nothing. But ultimately this was God working in my life and teaching me to be a servant.
When my dad’s legs gave out and he couldn’t get back up (January 2011), I was just a phone call away. When Mom needed to run to the supermarket, I sat with Dad and edited books on my laptop. I just tried to be there for him, even though he mostly slept and rarely, if ever, communicated.
Sometimes I felt helpless and wished I knew what to do—what to say—to make everything better. Of course, I didn’t. But deep down inside I knew that just being there for my parents was the role God had calling me to fill at that time in my life.
When Dad was close to death in August 2011, I was there for my mom. I was someone she could talk to, someone she could hug, someone who understood the grief of losing a loved one. And after he breathed his last breath, I held her again, not really knowing what else to do.
But sometimes that’s enough.
At the beginning I didn’t realize how much I would be called on to give what I didn’t possess. Ultimately, when I look back and remember my mom’s thank-you, I realize that this something—this whatever God wanted me to do at the time—did come from nothing because it didn’t come from anything I had in me.
God had to provide the grace to do what needed to be done.
My mom had the real job of taking care of my dad, but I had a role to play too. Where did the strength to be a caregiver, especially for my own father, come from? God decreed that this was the next chapter in my life, and He enabled me to do what needed to be done.
I believe all of us can rise above our own self-expectations and do more—and be more—than we ever thought we could . . . but only as God works His grace in our lives. In fact, it’s only when we realize we’re nothing in ourselves that God makes something special out of our lives. By His grace, we can rise to the occasion and be something when nothing seems like all we have to give.
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This is encouraging to me as we’re in a season of care-taking. At first we moved my husband’s mother to an assisted living facility near us for a few years, then we moved her into our home last July. The grace for it truly has to come from God. I’ve been thinking about a post, maybe a series of posts, about caring for elderly parents and hope to be able to put it all together in the next few weeks.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Layton Talbert, but his wife wrote a very moving piece about their caring for his mother here: http://notearsinheaven.com/NTIH/Peace_be_Still/EstherTalbert/ It has inspired me many times.
Thank you, Adam.
Dear Adam, you were not the only person making something out of nothing. Actually it was all an act of God. He made something out of nothing, our feeble selves. When we first found Dad’s cancer I about crumbled wondering how, where, when , how and why. I look back and know the Hand of Almighty God was a work. After the first initial shock, He gave me a calm spirit and strength in my heart to get through it all. I am an emotional being and I look back and see how I did not cry or grieve until it was all over. I look back and see His Grace in so many things that Dad and I went through. I remember wondering how Dad was going to react to it all and God gave him Grace to get through it all with a meek and humble spirit. Our God is good, always. Grace- the undeserved favor of a wonderful God.
Adam, your blog post really touched my heart. My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 66. My mother, 9 years younger, never completely recovered from the grief she tried to bury. She moved forward in her highly stressful career, hoping to block out the sadness. Her cancer started in her left lung. She was a nonsmoker and lived out in the clean country air here in lower Michigan. It was a two-year battle with that dreaded disease, but God gave me the grace to bring her into our home, even with 3 young daughters to care for. The cancer progressed to her brain, and eventually her bones. The journey was painful, physically for her, emotionally for me, but like you, grace is what kept me going and God brought me through the battle. Memories….. painful at times, but helpful to friends.
Thanks for sharing, Barbara. I’ve also been considering a series of posts on this topic, since I saw so much of it upfront and center (and it changed my thinking in several ways). While my mom did the day-in-day-out care for my dad (along with some hired help), I helped my mom in several ways and have a pretty good grasp of everything she went through from start to finish. It is quite a journey, and I can’t imagine doing it without God’s grace. I’m sure God will also empower you for what needs to be done.
You’re welcome, Gail!
Thanks, Mom. We saw it all–God working through weak people to achieve His purposes. I learned a lot from watching you care for dad and pushing yourself aside to meet his needs. God can use all of us in unexpected ways when the need arises. Love you.
Thanks, Nancee, for sharing. Your story sounds very similar to my mom’s. Other than a three-month stint in a nursing home for some physical therapy, Dad was at home with my mom for full-time care (from January 2009 to August 2011) with the help of a couple of health aides Mom paid from her own pocket to help her. I jumped in when Mom needed help and just tried to be there. So while I didn’t do all the daily care stuff Mom did, I saw it all happen right in front of us. Even at the end, Dad was home, with a hospice nurse who dopped in from time to time to make sure he was comfortable. God does enable us for the task, but it’s still a very difficult and emotionally draining experience. I can’t imagine doing it without God’s grace.