Have you ever sailed into an argument or situation with all cannons blazing… only to realise later that you should have just let the matter drop?
Have you ever fought long and hard for someone else – and then wondered whether you’re actually doing the right thing?
I have to admit, I have a tendency to get caught up “in the moment”. With the adrenaline rushing through my veins, I find it only too easy to believe that my right is the only right and it needs to be defended at any cost.
Of course, this just gets more complicated when it’s not my own battle that I’m fighting.
As Watchers we are often called to fight on someone else’s behalf. But what if sometimes fighting is not the best course of action? What if sometimes the right thing is to step back and put down our arms?
There are seasons for all of us where we are not able to do all we want. When chronic illness enters the picture, these seasons can be long indeed. It can be especially difficult when we are unable to serve or help our local community.
For those of us who are part of a church, a neighbourhood, a sports club or a community group we know what it is to volunteer our time and energy. It is a worthwhile and often enjoyable experience.
It can be challenging and even draining, but there’s something about working as part of a team toiling towards a common goal that can be very uplifting.
Should you serve your local community if your family member is sick?
If you are part of a local church or community, there are probably numerous opportunities to serve. Often during a Sunday morning worship service alone, you could potentially:
Play a musical instrument
Do a reading or announcement
Usher people in
Open up/lock up the building
Help in baby sit
Teach in Sunday school
Clean up the kitchen/building
… and that’s all within the space of about two hours! Throughout the week there are often many other situations in which you can fulfil the Biblical commandment to serve and love one another.
Yet it’s not that easy, is it? Those of us who have a family member with a chronic illness can find all the opportunities to serve somewhat daunting. There is so much need… and yet perhaps we find ourselves ill-suited to fill it.
I have a chronic illness, and I’ve recently been challenged about what it looks like for me to serve, specifically in mission (whether domestic or overseas).
Today’s post is my thoughts in regards to a series of questions I was asked by Wendy.
Q1. Why does it seem noble to sacrifice personal comfort to serve God in a third world country, but not to sacrifice your energy (as someone who has chronic fatigue) to serve in my own country?
Firstly, I think you’re right when you say there’s a difference between giving up your health security in a general sense (moving to a 3rd world country) and specifically sacrificing it, knowing exactly what the consequences will be.
Both scenarios involve potential daily suffering, but they are different, and I think it’s very important to acknowledge that at the very beginning.
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.
Considering our future in the presence of chronic illness is even harder. Illness is unpredictable.We can’t say how long our family member will need us, or how soon they will take a turn for the better or the worse.
We need to be realistic, but also hopeful.
Loving someone who is ill or aging means that whatever decisions you make, you are making them for two. That is a lot of responsibility, and there is a huge pressure to ‘choose right’.
It’s easy for us, whose lives are so embroiled with the pain of our Loved One, to forget those around us who aren’t Watchers.
We should not overlook the lives of our wider supporters and focus exclusively on our sick Loved One. So far, so obvious, but how do we put it into practice?
How do we love our wider supporters (and why do we need a post on this?)
Surely, if we all just act like civilised human beings there’s no need for a specific address on how to ‘love’ those who are not watching as we are.
On one hand that’s true, and on another it’s not. You see, Watching means that we are used to having the pain of one person impact our life. We are used to focusing inward, towards them. We know what it is like to relate to people who are suffering.
And we might, in the process, discover we have a lot less patience for those who are not.
We’ve talked about Loved Ones, those of us who suffer day in and day out from either physical or mental illness.
We’ve talked about Watchers, us whose lives are directly affected by their illness, and are called to love them, yet are unable to help them.
But what about those who fit into neither category?
We all like to use labels.
And they are necessary, and useful. Sometimes, however, they miss the mark. They cause us to overlook questions that need to be asked, and they paint the entire situation with broad sweeps, when actually, life is a lot more intricate.
When they leave us talking about ‘them’ and ‘those people’, it’s easy to forget that some of the time, in some circumstances, those people are ‘us’.
We are all wider supporters
It doesn’t matter if we are also individuals suffering with chronic illnesses or caregivers. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met anyone with a chronic illness or we work in a hospital and it’s all we see.