Care for the caregiver
Today’s contributor shares ideas that brought peace, harmony, and inspiration when she faced a frustrating situation as a caregiver.
Caregivers serving selflessly through their devotion of thought, skills, and willingness to help others also need to feel cared for – especially when balancing their own individual or family needs, or work responsibilities. Whether caregiving is one’s profession or involves caring for a family member or friend, I’ve found that considering a spiritual basis for care that includes the caregiver ensures ongoing strength and freshness in caregiving activities.
A number of years ago, I was regularly helping a woman of mature years get ready for bed for the night. This woman struggled with mental confusion, and most of the time our evenings ended in frustration. After enough nights of this, I realized I needed to rethink my approach.
Having felt the comfort and care of God before, it felt natural for me to turn to God in this situation. Christian Science, which is based on the living and practical truths of the Bible, has explained more deeply for me the nature of God as Love itself and as our true creator. It brings out that each of us is actually the spiritual image and likeness of divine Love. And as the children of divine Love, we are maintained, sustained, and watched over by Love.
This Bible verse particularly speaks to me: “I have loved you with a love that lasts forever. And so with unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3, Common English Bible). It points to the goodness that permeates the inseparable relation that all of us, including caregivers, have with God.
The ever-operative and tender caring of the one loving God is further imaged beautifully in this way: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd: he will gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and will gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11, Webster’s Bible Translation).
We might readily think of this in relation to someone being cared for, but what a support it is for the one giving care. How wonderful for the caregiver and the recipient of care alike to be able to lift thought in prayer to divine Love to feel the outpouring of God’s comfort, and to express Love-inspired qualities such as graciousness, patience, and serenity. Divine Love’s nurturing and uplifting lessen a sense of burden. And when we feel cared for by God, it is natural to feel and express this same ministering of God’s love toward others.
In pondering those difficult bedtime struggles, I persistently prayed to see that there was something more going on than one person caring for another with unpredictable results – that divine Love, with its boundless power and presence, was caring for this woman and me every moment. For that reason, we both could listen for and discern God’s gentle guidance and humbly follow it.
With this simple prayer, my peace returned. Shortly after that, I had the idea to put out one item at a time – a toothbrush, hairbrush, etc. – for this woman to use, and then I would leave the room. After a little while I would go back in, put out something else, and leave again. I did this until she had finished getting ready, at which point she happily got into bed.
That was the end of the nightly struggle. How grateful I was for this proof that God cherishes the caregiver, as well as the one receiving care, providing peace and inspiration.
Christ Jesus lived, taught, and healed on the basis of God’s infinite, constant care for all. Mary Baker Eddy, who loved and followed his teachings, discovered and established Christian Science through leaning on God’s love and care. She wrote: “Not more to one than to all, is God demonstrable as divine Life, Truth, and Love; and His people are they that reflect Him – that reflect Love. Again, this infinite Principle, with its universal manifestation, is all that really is or can be; hence God is our Shepherd. He guards, guides, feeds, and folds the sheep of His pasture; and their ears are attuned to His call” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” pp. 150-151). What a trustworthy promise for everyone and a sure foundation for every caregiver to care for another with inspiration and joy.