I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, June 17 reading
A treatise on the innate sinfulness of human beings in general and this blogger in particular may not seem an appropriate subject for a caregiving blog, but stay with me. Caregivers and their care recipients are human, and so sin is going to cause trouble in patient/caregiver relationships. This post is about how the Lord would have us to deal with the sad fact of sin in the people we love. Accepting the fact that we ourselves are sinful is the first step in this process.
I've learned today that I really can't trust my own motives. During prayer time I was forced to the admission that my "selfless" mothering of my adult children is, to some degree, a cover for a need to assure that I am accorded the honor and loyalty I feel I need from them.
I resisted at first, denying vehemently that there was any wrong in me in relation to my children, and then engaged in a sort of tug of war against the Almighty. Guess Who won that contest? Yes, I was finally convinced of my own black-heartedness as the following thoughts broke through my complacency:
When you demand loyalty, love takes second place. You do yourself a disservice, because your true desire is for your children’s responses to you to be directed by love rather than guilt-induced loyalty.
Appalled, I asked, "How do I make this right?"Their sense of guilt when they fail to accord you adequate respect gives birth to resentment, which engenders a feeling of entitlement. They sense that the negative feelings they harbor are your fault, and this justifies, in their minds, a demand for repayment from you.
You do not make it right. You are unable to fix what you have broken. God is the healer of hearts, the repairer of broken walls. Trust Him and stay out of His way.
Did you catch the sentence above that might make someone who cares for an elderly parent more vulnerable to the sin that has captured me? You fear that when you are no longer able to be of service to them, they will not continue to love you. Such astonishing demands have been made on my time and my life by my mother's Alzheimer's disease. It is difficult for me to imagine anyone being willing to make this kind of sacrifice for me. I fear being abandoned if the same disease that has rendered my mother helpless should attack me. My twisted sin-based logic would have me weave a web of obligation in my children's hearts that would provide insurance for me against disease-induced helplessness.Release your self-imposed sentence of making your life a sacrifice for your children. You have accepted this burden as a sort of insurance against being abandoned; but see the terrible fear you have taken on along with your burden of service? You fear that when you are no longer able to be of service to them, they will not continue to love you.
You have confused loyalty with love. Let go your demands for their loyalty, and leave their love for you to grow under the Lord's hand.
Of course this attitude dishonors God. The Lord is my strength and my provider; I need no further guarantee of future care than this. It's time I release my children from the obligation to be loyal to me "no matter what." All I really need from them is their love, which, because God is merciful and covers my sin, I already have.
My son's wedding is in six days. He and his beautiful bride-to-be share a love for country music and also for swing dancing, areas of life completely foreign to me! When the mother/son dance song was selected for me by a friend I thought, "Wow, that doesn't sound like me at all, but oh well." At our one practice session, my son took me in his arms and, because he is so good at two-stepping, I found I could follow his lead and do a good enough job for the 3 minutes of the song. The twangy, heart rending number we will dance to is called, "I Won't Take Less Than Your Love," by Paul Overstreet. It is amazing to me that the Lord provided this song for us weeks ago and only now do I understand; my son doesn't owe me a thing, but loving and being loved is the best gift of all. You can listen to the song here.