Our Hearts, Loving Authentically
There are days when we have nothing left to give, our heart seems cold, our love dried up. We don’t have “that lovin’ feelin”? Isn’t love a feeling? According to a magazine article I just saw, falling out of love is the number one cause of divorce. One magazine offered a self-quiz so you could tell if you’re falling out of love. So if we don’t feel loving, does that mean we no longer love our parent?
We may “fall” into caregiving as some “fall” in love. We think we will do it for a short time, then surely our sibling will take over. Our parent needs a bit of help, a ride to the doctor’s office maybe some help shopping and cleaning. Before long, that parent starts falling down, they become incontinent, they forget to take their pills and they forget to take a bath. They don’t look or act like the parent we’ve loved so long. We need to make some hard decisions. Do we put Mom or Dad in a care facility? Do we bring them into our home? Do we try to keep them in their home and care for them long distance? This isn’t what we thought it would be. This is much harder. This isn’t the parent we’ve loved all our lives. This person is a stranger and not very lovable. So do we fall out of love with our parent? The parent we made a conscious decision to help, is on our last nerve. The slings and arrows which usually bounce off are suddenly penetrating. Our parent may say mean things. They criticize us when we are trying to help.
If this were a Star Trek episode, our shields would be down, our engines stopped–we’d be completely vulnerable to attack. We’d have no Scottie to fix our starship and no emotionless Vulcan to step in for us. It is up to us to man the conn, be brave, pull up our socks, put on our “big girl” panties, whatever metaphor you want to use, and do our job anyway. But how can we? How can we do it if we don’t feel loving? How do we do it alone? We might be afraid. We may not be strong enough.
I postulate that love is a feeling, an emotion, but not only a feeling. Our feelings ebb and flow. It’s true in a marriage and in any relationship. Some days we feel more loving than other days. Love is also a choice. When I say it is a choice, I don’t mean it’s a fake act, a steeling of yourself, a gritting of your teeth to do the right thing no matter how much you hate it. You can’t fake love. To love unselfishly, unfailingly, to love when the object of our love is unlovable, requires a change of heart. What? “My heart is just fine, thank you very much,” you think. Or you may think, “That’s impossible. I can’t do that myself, that’s ridiculous.”
If you think either or both, you are on your way to getting a new heart. Recognizing you need help and that you can’t do it alone are the first steps. God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Yes, we think, that’s OK for Sundays or for super-religious people. I’m just plain me. Well, just plain me is exactly the type of person God is looking for. He doesn’t look for superheroes to do important jobs–jobs like caring for the most vulnerable among us. Children, the elderly, the helpless, the widow, the orphan are people God directs our attention to as a special group deserving our utmost love and care. He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. How can we know how great and powerful he is if we don’t need him to empower us for acts of love that are not naturally in us?
God says, ” I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit. I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Then he tells us, “The peace of God, which is beyond our understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
If we want to continue this caregiving journey, we need help–supernatural help. How does it work? We ask for it. It’s that simple and that hard. It’s simply saying, “God, help me, I can’t do it on my own.” It’s as hard as relying on that help every day. Jesus said we are to “deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow him.” Luke 9:23. It’s an act of faith. You don’t have to know all the theology of everything to begin. You don’t even need to know what theology means. You just need to take the first step.
A New Heart
So today I’m taking my new heart of flesh and handing it over to God to guard so I can do the work he has called me to do this day, not tomorrow, I only have to do today. Tomorrow isn’t here yet, it’s always just today. I’m feeling confident of his help as I put one foot in front of the other. As I go about caregiving, strengthened and renewed, I’m confident I’ll have the energy, the patience, and the wisdom, I need to do the job. No super powers required, only a super God.
Have a good caregiving day,