When I started caring for our elderly neighbor, I soon realized that one of my personal articles of faith was going to be tested. I remember writing about it earlier this year:
I believe what Jesus demonstrated is that we can trust God to always provide all that we need to be free to love and do good. So even in times where we must go through pain or loss, or afflictions and oppressions from other people, God will bring whatever is needed to give us freedom in those situations. It may be financial resources or the help of a friend or a spiritual experience. But we can trust God for real help, real things, real intervention to free us. Not simply to spare our suffering but to allow us to be our good self, a unique loving presence, the presence of God in the world. In all situations, at all times, throughout our whole life. That's what living in the kingdom of God means.Situations of care-giving, like perhaps for an infant or a very elderly relative, frequently test this belief. Because the needs in these situations can often escalate beyond our capabilities. And we don't usually feel like we have much choice in the matter, the person is helpless, and they're our responsibility, and their needs come first. It's easy to conclude that the demands on us could very well keep increasing, regardless of the toll it takes on us. That's scary.
The belief, though, which I think is intrinsic in Jesus' announcement of freedom and good news, is that God does have regard for our needs. And that God won't lay a limitless burden on us that will crush us. We will not be destroyed by doing good.
Our experience can be very confused, however, because it is often not easy to discern the actual good we personally are called to do. There are plenty of demands from others and guilt trips and pride and social standards that have little to do with good or God. Demands that are not limited or merciful or considerate of our needs. So the difficulty comes in sorting out what is really good, and what good God wants us to do, and what good God has given for others to do. It's not about being the hero. It's about submitting to God's choice for us, and accepting the help we need as we also serve the needs of others. In this we are all servants and all dependent on God's care. Only God is the hero.
There were a few times these past few weeks when I wasn't sure if the demands were going to push me too far. But I tried to focus on what was the good service God was asking of me, and I asked for and accepted help from others as well. It's important that care-giving not be one-way. We all need to care for each other.
Now things seem to have settled into a routine, and it's not overwhelming. I'm actually surprised how well it fits my life right now. And the situation ended up offering an unexpected answer to needs that we had as well. All while providing just what was needed for our friend next door, in this vulnerable time in his life.
"Your Father knows your needs. Seek his kingdom, and I promise, those things will be yours as well."