“We want to help….But unless we realize that God’s blessing is coming to us from those we want to serve, our help will be short-lived, and eventually we may feel burned out….How can we keep consoling the dying when their deaths only bring us more grief? The answer is that they all hold a blessing, a blessing that each of us needs to receive. Care-giving is, finally, receiving God’s blessing from those to whom we give care.”
Knowing something of Henri Nouwen’s history helps me trust the truth of today’s reading. Nouwen spent the last years of his ministry living in a L’Arche community, immersed in caregiving, but within a community that emphasizes mutual relationships rather than client-provider relationships. His stories from this season of his life are rich and beautiful. So, I trust that he knows something about the blessing that comes from care-giving.
But it is hard. It is hard to see and experience the blessing in the midst of the grief. I’m preparing for a funeral on Friday for an amazing man who died far too young. If you are so inclined, please join me in prayers for his wife and adult children, who have spent the last month as care-givers , for their friends, and me, their pastor as we do the work of grief and seek to discover God’s blessings in the midst of caring for one another.
[Additional thoughts from later in the day: My first response to the idea that care-giving is “receiving God’s blessing from those to whom we give care” was that it sounded kind of selfish to go into a care-giving situation looking for what I will get out of it. However, as I’ve been reflecting today, I think I’m being challenged to consider that going into a care-giving situation expecting to be the only one giving is more selfish. It is a position of power and control (oh–control came up yesterday, too, didn’t it?).]