This weekend, a group of ladies gathered in my home to sing Psalms. Most had never experienced harmonized Psalmody before but after an hour or so there we all were confidently singing our parts following the notes on the page, God’s own words on our lips, our eyes becoming fluent in the language of music given us for the worship of our King. This is not a post about restoring the treasury of Psalms and hymns to our worship services, though I yearn for that with all my heart, it’s a post about restoring the role of Christian women in caring for their families, the elderly, the sick, and the saints. What does Psalm singing have to do with hospitality?
While the singing of lullabies is still considered a natural function of motherhood, we seem to have lost the art of caring for the sick and elderly through song. In fact, we seem to have abandoned the art of caring for the sick and elderly altogether. Restoring the art of caring through song is merely a small part of restoring obedience to the commands of 1 Timothy 5. A widow was only to be supported by the church if she had a “a reputation for good works; if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in affliction, if she has devoted herself to every good work.” When were all these qualifications fulfilled? The moment her husband died? No, they began when she was young, when she was fulfilling the Titus 2 mandate to “love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands…” and when older women in the church were busy teaching her to do those very things. They began when she was obeying the earlier part of 1 Timothy 5 when she was learning “to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return their parents.” This imperative is followed by an indicative that is sadly disregarded today. “For this is pleasing in the sight of God.”
Here’s where I want to address you older parents who are determined “not to be a burden to your kids.” Scripture is clear, that caring for the elderly in your family pleases God. When you rob your children of the opportunity to take care of you, you are robbing them of the opportunity to please God and robbing God of taking pleasure in the good deeds of His children. And it’s generational thievery. You’re also robbing your grandchildren of learning from the example of their own parents in caring for you. This means they will be less likely to care for their own parents.
And I’m not ignoring the very real fact that this can mean putting yourself in what can be a very humbling position, nor that it can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and yes, messy, work for your kids. The difficulty of these circumstances is one of the things that makes this sacrificial act so pleasing to God. My parents modeled this beautifully for me. They cared well for their parents, and my mom and I would often talk of her coming to live with me in her old age. But while the Lord saw fit to take my mother home quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I did have the opportunity to care for my dad in his home during his last days. My middle son, Nathan, was there with me for much of that time. I know it was indescribably difficult for my usually self-reliant father to find himself in the position of needing his most basic physical needs met by others, but he was a model of graciousness through it all. My dad died well. And his last days were filled with song. I chronicle that unforgettable time in another post. Click here.
What a pity that the Psalms and hymns our older generation and the generations before them treasured most are increasingly unknown to the only ones left to sing them in their hour of need. Is it not true that part of honoring our father and mother is honoring the sacrifice of praise they offered to our God and using that means to comfort and cheer them on into their eternal rest? Unlike modern songs, the Psalms and many hymns don’t skirt around the subject of death and dying, rather they prepare our hearts and instruct us in how to face it with confidence and joy.
Younger women, I implore you. Learn the Psalms and hymns. Get comfortable singing them without a rocking band and complicated sound board. Find opportunities to care for others through the simple gift of song. Start with your own grandparents, a sorrowing friend, a neighbor battling cancer, or one of the elder orphans filling the local nursing home.
Finally, I want to recommend 2 podcasts related to this subject. One is by Brian and Lexy Sauve on the subject of deathbed hospitality. Click here for that link. The other, by Owen Strachan (click here), sounds like just another rant about modesty judging by its title, but the second half is devoted to the subject of women’s ministry and I think he makes some excellent points. Namely, that our churches need not be in the business of providing what I lightheartedly refer to as “seminary for chicks.” We do however need godly Christian women willing to model and teach another generation how to care for our families, the elderly, the afflicted, and each other, and our classroom needs to be the home.
Singing may seem like such a small, insignificant part of that, but I can assure you, after this weekend, there’s no more glorious place to start.