This is an oft-quoted-out-of-context verse, but raises an important question: What if you can’t give? Is receiving only second best?
What if you feel like you do all the receiving and none of the giving?
Not all of us are positioned to ‘give’ at all times, in all places. Or sometimes when we do give, our gifts end up being more a hindrance rather than a blessing.
As the shops get busier and my drive home after a late night shift becomes increasingly well-lit thanks to the current Christmas light epidemic, I’ve decided to introduce a new blog ‘series’.
Love in a Time of Chronic Illness (LTCI)
Many of my posts are either ‘answers’ or ‘explanations’ relating to the difficulties and loneliness-es of loving someone with a chronic illness.
I’ve never proposed to have the ‘only-exclusively-right’ answers to every situation of course. (Unless the Answer is Jesus, in which case I do!) But I write what I’ve learnt and I describe what’s encouraged me.
But for a while now I’ve been nursing a fear that perhaps these posts are portraying me unrealistically.
This week I was sick. Not chronically sick. Not even break-your-leg sick or appendicitis-need-operation sick. Merely stomach bug sick.
Uncomfortable, rather depressing, but half a week later and I was over it and back at work.
But something had changed.
While I was unwell I learned three very important truths about chronic illness – and I don’t want to ever forget them.
3 things I learnt about being chronically ill
1. Chronic illness means you are ill.
Don’t get me wrong, I never thought it was a walk in the park.
All my life my mum has battled various autoimmune diseases, and in the past few years I’ve watched my younger sister go through many similar struggles. I know personally how chronic illness can drain families, disrupt lives and sabotage futures.
But there’s nothing like being sick yourself to remember that the act of being sick in itself is awful.
In one sense our role in someone else’s chronic illness is quite small. We certainly can’t ‘redeem’ their suffering or even carry their burden for them! HOWEVER, I do believe that Watching someone going through a hard time and “being there” for them is the very best thing you can do.
Our role in someone else’s suffering is bigger than we think because:
1: The people we Watch are precious
There’s a line in the Jewish Talmud which states:
‘To save one Jewish life is the same as saving the world entire.’
That is an immense claim and it raises a lot of problematic questions (such as: does that mean everything is permissible if it saves one life? What if that person is a murderer? What does it actually mean to save a life?).
Rather than delving into the philosophy behind this quote, I want to focus on the fact that every life is infinitely important.
Each person is created by God, in the image of God, for a purpose and a reason.
God cares deeply about each and every life – and so should we.
2: The people we Watch are immortal
C. S. Lewis touches on this when he describes us as having “immortal souls” (The Weight of Glory).
We are creatures of eternity.
As a result our lives are important. Not only our lives after death, but our lives before it too.
Every second that we live on this earth is one of cosmic significance. Not because we are great but because we are greatly loved.
Our Loved Ones have immortal souls.
There are beautiful things on this earth that only last a short while. Sunsets die away and flowers whither. Yet God did not create us to be sunsets or withering flowers. He gave us eternal souls and in doing so demonstrated that in His eyes we are more important than all the beauties of nature.
Not only so, but He sacrificed Himself to have a relationship with the human race despite the fact that we are undeserving of such love.
3: The people we Watch are not accidents or mistakes.
It is this careful creation and painstaking redemption that sanctifies every prosaic moment on earth. Every smile, every phone call, every scrubbed kitchen floor has eternal consequences.
Our role as Watchers is important because God has given it to us.
The huge sacrifices of time and money are important – and so are the tiny, speechless moments. The visible burdens are significant and so are the unseen ones.
If God has said that washing the dishes is important, who are we to argue otherwise?
Will you embrace your role and see it as important?
While Watching is not an answer to the ‘Problem of Pain’ that doesn’t mean we’re not important. If a spoon won’t cut my toast, it doesn’t mean the spoon is useless. It simply means it was created for something else.
Watching is not an antidote to suffering, but it may be a balm.
We may not be able to solve their problems or even lessen their pain. Our endeavours to soothe may be useless and our attempts to help may prove futile. But standing by one person and loving them is enough. Living the life of a Watcher because we have no choice is enough.
It is enough because people matter. Every one of us is precious, immortal and part of God’s plan. As a result our role in someone else’s suffering – even when it seems insignificant – it actually huge.
// Do you believe your everyday life is important? Do you live like it is?
Don’t be shy. Join the conversation and comment below!
There’s a reason this post is titled ‘Watching is a privilege’ rather than ‘Watching is easy’.
Am I going crazy?
Following on the heels of the previous post, ‘Watching is hard’, the title above seems incongruous. But be assured, what follows will not cancel out what was written previously.
Watching remains hard, very hard. But I’d like to propose that it is also a privilege. It is an opportunity, and a very unique one. You see, the world around us says that a good and normal life is one full of ease and comfort, luxuries and relational happiness.
That’s all very well, and ideally maybe such a life would be good and normal.
Have you ever felt like a burden? To those around you? To your friends, your spouse, your community?
It’s easy to feel doubly burdensome when someone you love is ill or going through a tough time. You don’t want to add to their struggles… and yet somehow you accidentally end up doing so!
Are you a burden? I am.
Sorry, but you are a burden
A burden is something troublesome. Something hard to get rid of. We can be burdened by duty, worry, conflict or disease.
But more often than not, our real burdens are people.
All relationships are burdensome. All attachments hurt. Friendship is ecstasy and agony.
When we love someone we worry about them. We weep when they weep, we laugh when they love. It is people – family, neighbours, friends, spouses – which hamper our futures and make our decisions doubly difficult.