I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part Four of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.’”
I moved from Amsterdam to Kent in 2012. Two years later, in 2014, my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. So the next year, in 2015, he (and my Mom) moved to Kent.
Parkinson’s Disease moves relatively slowly. First, it slows you down physically. And then (in about 75% of patients) it starts to slow you down cognitively. Still, when my Dad moved to Kent, there was a brief window of time when he was able to help me and Jason (the same friend from college who has now become my co-pastor here at H2O) learn New Testament Greek. As recently as 2019, we would meet together once a week for Greek Lessons.
Every week, our lesson would include some time in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Either Jason or I would take a turn reading the Greek text and translating it (as literally as possible) on the spot: building our vocabulary and our understanding of Greek nouns and verbs and the ways they all worked together.
But somewhere in the course of those Greek Lessons, it became apparent that my Dad started losing his grasp of words. In the beginning, it seemed that he was just losing his ability to express himself. It was like he could still make sense of all incoming information, just the same as usual. But outgoing information was more challenging. It was like he would just get tongue-tied. Or not able to spit out the right word. He’d say as much. And it was clearly frustrating — for all of us.
But there’s only so much that medicine can do. Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disease. And language (among many other things) is a neurological function.
For a while, it just seemed like my Dad got quieter and quieter. It actually worked well for our Greek Lessons. His reduction in instruction forced me to become more self-directed, with occasional nods and affirmations from him. And just like I had fallen in love with the Word of God in English… and then in English again, when I entered young adulthood… and then in Dutch… and then in Greek… I hope that I never stop loving the Word of God.
I may end up getting Parkinson’s Disease, just like my Dad. Or I may end up getting some other condition that leads to physical decline… and cognitive decline… and Dementia. But I want to believe what it says in Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” And I believe that the prayer of King David was the prayer of my father, Dave, as well. Even though nobody completely knows how it works, how it feels, when it comes to Dementia. Or death. Oh, that it would be the prayer for all of us who walk by faith in Jesus! That we would treasure God’s Word and hide it in our hearts…
[to be continued]