How do I honor my father's decisions when he has memory loss?

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Candice Watters

How do I honor my father's decisions when he has memory loss?

Apr 05, 2016 |Candice Watters
Question

I am 20 and a junior in college. Memory issues run in my family. My dad has started to lose his memory — just in small ways. Sometimes it is difficult to include him in decision-making because he doesn't recall the details of a situation. He may make a decision, then turn around the next week to give the opposite advice regarding the same situation.

How can I still honor and respect him and his wisdom when making decisions? Also, when I have a guy who’s interested in me, how can I involve him in the courtship process?

Answer

Thank you for writing to ask about involving your dad in your decision making despite his memory loss. I imagine this is a painful and potentially frightening experience for you.

It is to your father’s honor that you want to continue seeking his input and wisdom, as well as include him in your future courtship, despite his declining memory. In fact, Scripture commands children to honor their parents, without qualification (Ephesians 6:1-3). It says to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). The “dueness” is based on the role they occupy, not whether the way they occupy it seems adequate. By virtue of being your father, your dad deserves honor. This is true today with faltering memory, and it will be true on his last day, even if he no longer remembers your name.

What then does honor look like as his ability to make decisions wanes? Here are a few ways you can show him respect during the coming years:

Involve your dad by sharing your life with him. Tell him about what you’re doing, opportunities that arise, decisions that need to be made. Then listen attentively and patiently to what he says. Thank him for loving you and desiring to help you and care for you. Let your relationship with him be marked by kindness, keeping in mind all that he has done for you up until this point.

When you have a boyfriend, introduce him to your dad and seek to foster a relationship between them. Observing how a man engages with and cares for your dad will be a good test of his character and potential as a future husband. You will have a unique window into his priorities: Is he respectful, honoring, and kind? You can and should get the accountability you’ll need for a godly courtship from your church family.

Relieve your dad of the responsibility of making decisions for you. This will be necessary as his ability to remember details and make decisions declines, but it’s not only necessary for this reason. You said you are 20. That means you are legally an adult and you should be taking on the responsibilities and stewardship that go with being an adult. Embrace maturity. One way we do this is by no longer relating to our parents as their children, but as brothers and sisters in Christ (if they are believers) and as friends. Even if your dad didn’t have memory loss, you would need to be transitioning into this season of maturity, where you still seek his input, but the responsibility and stewardship for making wise decisions for yourself falls to you.

Where he isn’t capable of good advice, ask for help. There will be times when he is capable of giving wise advice and times when he won’t be. How will you know the difference? Measure what your father says against God’s Word, which is what all of us should be doing. As adults, we are responsible for our decisions. In Scripture we learn that God has given us “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). What I’m telling you to do is, in truth, what all mature believers are called to. It’s just that your life circumstances will force you to do it more intentionally and earlier than most of your peers.

Seek many wise counselors. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Part of mature adulthood is building a community of wise advisers. This should happen primarily in the body of Christ, as a member of your local church. Do you have a pastor or elder you meet with regularly for input? Are you a member of a smaller group within your church? We need the help and accountability of older, wiser Christians at every stage of life. When we are children, God gives parents that task. But as we grow into adulthood, we need others as well. This is true for all believers — even more so for those whose parents aren’t able to fulfill that role either because they are not themselves believers, or they live too far away, or they have died, or they are not well.

Never stop asking your dad to pray with you. Finally, as long has he is able, ask him to offer prayers of thanksgiving and supplication on your behalf. Tell him you need God’s wisdom and invite him to go with you before the throne of grace to ask God for it. If your dad gets to the point where he can no longer pray with you — for you — never stop asking if you can pray with him, for him. This will always be the best, most important work you can do together.

I pray the Lord will help you to grieve the loss of your dad’s memory, enable you to give him honor, and work through the means of the local church to meet your need for wise counsel and comfort.

By Grace Alone,
Candice Watters

Copyright Candice Watters 2016. All rights reserved.

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