This past week, rifling through a bunch of 2-year-old loose leaves, I came upon a note scratched hastily on one of the pieces of paper:
By serving our parents (caregiving?) we are serving Christ. We must keep pace with HIM and not run ahead.
I’ve been in the habit of carrying around a note pad for jotting thoughts whenever they strike, and I remember when I wrote this one. My husband, brother, and step-dad were standing around Mom’s hospital bed, probably three or four days before she died. Tears flowed as I recalled an evening years before, my arms wrapped around my grandmother, talking quietly together and praying, pleading with God to ease her pain. The pain did not cease for many hours, but the prayer did comfort her. At Mom’s bedside, the missed opportunities of praying with her while she was still “aware” haunted me.
Prior to writing the note, I had spent weeks, months, talking (sometimes arguing) with therapists, nurses and doctors, trying to keep up with Mom’s illness. Nothing wrong with that – everyone in her position needs an advocate – but in the midst of my orchestrations, I ran ahead of what God was doing and missed several opportunities to simply be with Mom in her suffering. Surely, there is no better balm for a hurting one’s heart than for us to love them, sometimes silently, with a soft caress or whispered prayers, when other forms of communication fail? That is what Christ does. That is love.
And that is what it means to know Christ, and have fellowship in His suffering (Phil. 3:10). After finding the note, I quickly scanned some excerpts from author Henri Nouwen’s books. What love that simple priest exuded, as he willingly placed himself in the role of servant-pastor to those with sometimes-severe disabilities. Serving among the members of the L’Arche community in Toronto was at times tiring, but never a burden to him. Time and again in his memoirs, he wrote of privilege, joy, and gratitude that he was allowed to portray Christ to his compromised friends.
Love has a name, it is Jehovah. Love has a face, it is Christ’s as He stripped himself of His possessions, wrapped a towel around His waist, and washed the disciple’s feet, then asked them to “do” like their master.
To love God is to call on His name for strength as I wrap myself in Christ’s towel, and follow Him.
O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me
thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am
ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long
to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy
glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love
within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then
give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered
too long. —A.W. Tozer, “The Pursuit of God,” as quoted in “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan