In one of the Lord of the Rings movies, the elf princess Arwen's father urges her to take the ship to what is the elven version of Heaven, the Undying Lands. Arwen sets out to obey her father, whose desire is to spare her pain. But she sees a beautiful child in a vision, and understands that in addition to the inevitable grief and death that are part of being human, there will also be joy and life. She chooses a mortal life instead of embarking on a journey to what is essentially Paradise.
I remembered this movie scene this morning as I lay in bed, exhausted; asking the Lord's permission to stay home this morning and rest.
As a caregiver I have chosen only to postpone Paradise, not to forgo it. In my imperfect way, I have attempted to follow the example of St. Paul, caregiver extraordinaire. In Philippians 1:20-26, Paul says that he will choose to stay and minister to the people the Lord has entrusted to his care, even though to depart would be much better for him. Paul was talking about whether to die or to live, but I think his words can be extended to include the choice made by all who accept the anointing of caregiver; whether to choose the 'life' of going our own way and pleasing ourselves, or the 'death' of laying down our lives for the sake of someone we love.
As caregivers we have a unique opportunity to follow the example of the One who is the ultimate provider of care to those who are in need, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ's example of dying in order to live is a template for all Christians, but as caregivers I think we have a special opportunity to learn how to give as Christ gave.
I think the Lord set Arwen's story into my mind this morning to remind me that there is also joy. Being needed is a great blessing. Like most of you, I serve in the role of caregiver not just to my Alzheimer's patient, but to a number of others as well. Sometimes the care I provide is more as an intercessor and confidante than in terms of actual physical labor, but the commitment to be fully present for those who need me is definitely there. It is as though once we as caregivers say to the Lord, "Here I am, take me and use me as you will," that He wants to double and triple and quadruple the blessing He is able to provide through us. And aren't we blessed as a result!
I get tired and cranky. Worse than that, I become afraid, and fear blinds me to the Lord's comforting voice. But this morning I'm aware of His gentle compassion and the warmth of his approval, and I remember that in this caregiving journey, there is indeed joy. I pray each of you can find the joy today.