Long term caregivers are incredibly fortunate. We have continuous opportunities to grow in capacity to love. We have a second, a third, a hundredth chance to get it right.
Loving perfectly is more complicated than what is depicted on a bumper sticker or groovy 60’s song. Rather, it is a slow process that does not come easy. The biblical definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 has countless opportunities to hold a mirror up to our hearts and remind us where we are growing and where there is room for God to be invited in.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love: is patient
If special needs caregivers become anything, it is patient. We wait and wait and wait. We wait for the first steps and first words to come. Sometimes they never do.
Love is kind.
Advocacy. Kindness. Advocacy. Kindness. Advocacy. Sigh…this perfect love thing certainly is a slow process of refinement.
It does not envy,
Our lives are spent a bit on the outside looking in and at first that hurts. As love grows in us, the envy slowly drips out to be replaced with true celebration for others.
it does not boast, it is not proud.
Humility is a beautiful gift that comes with a caregiving gig. Perspective comes quick on what is and is not truly beautiful. I often think of The Beatudes in the Gospel of Matthew. Perhaps the eight “blessed are” character traits found in many special needs families are desirable because it keeps one far from boasting and the sneaky sin of pride.
It does not dishonor others,
For those in the role of caregiver, our world is lived out along side the oppressed. We are fortunate enough to have a deep dive into how special God has created each and every one of His people.
it is not self seeking,
There is little room for selfishness.
it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.
Advocacy. Not easily angered. Advocacy. No records of wrongs. Advocacy.
Lawyers actually advise us to keep records of wrongs. This is an example of the tension between what the world says to do and what God tells us to do. The best training comes from situations where tension exists.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.
As God fills us, His truth becomes more clear. Especially what is true about His love. We delight and rejoice in His love!!
It always protects
Any Christian caregiver of a loved one with special needs has a story to share of the tough journey coming to trust God. Trust is the reservoir holding gallons upon gallons of love waiting to be released. Man, it’s a tough one, though.
Our days are spent hoping for little things. Our heart is focused on hoping for big things.
Many of us at LOMAH are moving in a mission or calling to spread Kingdom love via the special needs adult world. There will be no shortage of roadblocks which is exactly why we are a good group for God to work through. If nothing else. we know how to persevere.
Love never fails.
Never? Okay. So maybe we aren’t quite there, yet.
However, God is. His love is perfect and will never fail us.
This love thing is hard.
Will we ever perfect it this side of heaven? Even with over a dozen years of refinement, I still am mediocre at best. It just doesn’t seem like it should be that hard! Yet it is.
I see my faults not only in my role as a caregiver but also in a lack of empathy toward the struggle of others. I bite my lip while comforting someone in the middle of potty training struggles that will be short term when MY teenager still wears a diaper 24 hours a day. I find myself lacking empathy when there is temporary sleep deprivation because let me just tell you about MY sleep deprivation for the last umpteen years. I find myself discounting their stress and alarm over an emergency room visit because let me tell you about the time I found MY kid having a seizure alone in the pool. And on and on it goes.
Does this sound like the love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? This is not a contest who has it harder (but if there is a contest, sign up a special needs caregiver group because our team is solid). Gah! Love does not boast and is not proud. Dang it.
God is love
Can we fully love without knowing God? When it comes to a life that matters, caregivers are incredibly lucky to be immersed in the essence of who God is. Our circumstances often are a catalyst for our hands to open and receive Him in our need. He fills open hands with His love and then provides ample opportunities for that love to flow through us into the special needs world.
There is no better life to live. It is a life I love.