PS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 PT 3:18-22
The scripture for this Lenten reflection speaks to us about covenant. It is a familiar story about God’s covenant with Noah and his sons and their descendants who come after them. God declares God’s covenant not only with Noah, his sons and descendants, but also with every living creature. God’s covenant is to never again use the waters to become a flood destroying all mortal beings.
What is interesting about this covenant in our scripture is that it is unilateral. It is a covenant that only goes one way. The covenant flows out of God to God’s creation. How incredible God’s relational love is that there is no expectation in this passage for Noah, his sons and descendants to covenant back to God.
As I sat thinking about this relationship God has with creation and God’s unilateral covenant, I began to think about how I might have that kind of love, living a unilateral covenant with others.
My mother Cay Hartmann who is now deceased, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Not being able to live in her own home, she came to be a resident in the Alzheimer’s unit at Laclede Groves Senior Living Community. Because my brother does not live in St. Louis, I was the one who visited with her several times a week. I was the one who collected her clothes and washed and ironed them and returned them to her. I was the one who fixed her hair and put on her make-up before taking her to her doctor’s appointments or to a family gathering. I was the one who nervously went to the women’s departments trying to buy bras and underwear which I had no clue what size to ask for. I was the one who each month was present at the Social Work/Nurse meetings as they discussed my mother. I was the one who sat for long periods of time as she reminisced about a time long before I was born since her recent memory was so often shadowed by the fog of Alzheimer’s.
One could say I was obligated to do all these things because I was her son. After reading this scripture passage and thinking about this incredible loving unilateral covenant that God is showing us, I began to erase from my memory the obligatory mindset. Yes, I guess one could say as her son, I was obligated to care for my mother who no longer could care for her own needs. But now I believe I made a unilateral covenant with my mom. I expected nothing in return from her. I wanted no promises from her. I wanted no tit-for-tat. I simply unilaterally covenanted with her because I loved her that much.
What would happen to our biological, work, church, and/or neighborhood families if our mind-sets – our hearts expressed our relationships in a loving and compassionate unilateral covenant. Would our lives be different? Would our communities be different? Would our country be different? Would our world be different? Thank you, God, for showing us yet another way to express love.
Rob Hartmann is Manager of Pastoral Care Services at SLU Hospital.