Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House
Many readers will be carers, or may become carers in the future. This means that their lives become ordered around the needs of a family member or friend. This presents many spiritual challenges to the Christian. In a caring role, there must be a constant search for a point of balance between the needs of the person for whom we care and sustaining one's own essential needs for rest and reflection - for keeping on top of day-to-day business, and maintaining vital relationships in community and home. The first step is to accept the vocation as a carer: for whatever reason, the Lord has put you in a situation where another person looks to you for practical help and comfort. Resentment and reluctance to receive this task leads to a bitterness of heart that sours everything. Accept with thanksgiving the practical service that it is possible to give and the fact that through this giving one makes a profound effect on the quality of another person's life. For whatever reason, you have been brought into a gospel and kingdom relationship. The Lord teaches 'it is better to give than to receive' and in the practical tasks we carry out as carers, we fulfil the new commandment: 'you are to do to one another what I have done for you.' Welcomed and accepted in this way, the role of a carer becomes a ministry of God's love and opens the carer up to an outpouring of God's grace. Remember the words of Jesus: 'whatever you do for the least of my little ones, you do also for me.' It is not at all unusual for carers to experience great joy and freedom in the act of caring.
Frustrations are bound to build up. Fatigue sets in and tempers become frayed and short. Make sure that you find someone to talk to who will listen to you, and pray with and for you. In a time of such spiritual, physical and emotional demands, lives can quickly become ill-disciplined and disordered. Now is a good time to make use of the grace found in the confessional.
Everything and everyone in the situation must be surrounded by prayer. The endless practical details of caring can produce anxiety and frustration. Let these be a reason to let go and let God take control. Nothing is too small or insignificant to be placed within his loving purpose - remember that 'even the hairs of your head are numbered.' The irony is that the more you feel everything depends on you, the less it actually does. The whole experience of being a carer leads one to a deep realization of one's own need for care and support. In this way it can lead one along a path of humility to one where healing is found.
Being a carer sharpens up one's own sense of need. There is a clear call to find time to be still and rest in God's presence. There is a definite spiritual hunger that demands guidance and light from the Word of God and spiritual strength from the Body of Christ.
Being a carer is an invitation to come close to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve and gave himself up as the willing slave of all. God give us grace to love and care in him.
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