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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 11:59 pm | Fair 53º


D.C. Collier: Caregiving Is God’s Path to Humility

I’m a caregiver for my much-loved wife. The nitty gritty of this process has often stretched the two of us to the breaking point, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You see, through it, God has been “tearing me down and putting up a human being.”

But it hasn’t been pretty.

Rubbed Raw, Squeezed Down, Eyes Bulging

Decades ago, there was a popular newspaper cartoon that often featured a big bulldog pursuing a hapless, skinny little cat. The dog always won the contest and would gleefully drag the cat by its tail over to a large wooden door with a jagged knothole in its center.

The sadistic canine would then ceremoniously thread the whimpering cat’s tail through the knothole and drag him backward through the too-small orifice and out the other side. The results were predictable and hilarious (to kids at least): Fur rubbed raw against the grain, body squeezed down and elongated, eyes bulging, a prolonged high-pitched shriek.

Nothing About Caregiving ‘Comes Natural’

As a caregiver, it sometimes feels like I’m that poor cat — everything about the job goes against my grain — feeling trapped, forced into impossibly small spaces, stretched to the breaking point. And worse, having to repeat the cycle every day.

Opportunity for Undreamed-of Personal Growth

But I have discovered to my great surprise that within this caregiving crucible lies an opportunity available in no other venue. I just needed to be willing to abandon my cherished comfort zones and be prepared to embark upon uncharted, often tumultuous waters. It’s been well worth the ride.

No Honorable Way Out

Caregiving can be a tough, often thankless job. To begin with, the loved one on the receiving end of your caregiving efforts often has no idea of what YOU are going through. They’re understandably preoccupied with their own struggles and fears.

So, you get to go it alone for much of the time. And that’s OK, because in that isolation, you get to see what you are really made of. Will you cut and run? Will you stand tall and rise to your duty?

How a person responds to a cause bigger than themselves tells a lot about their character.

One of my fellow caregivers in the Parkinson Association of Santa Barbara once exclaimed in a moment of frustration, “I feel trapped and there is no honorable way out.”

All of us can identify. The only thing that has saved me has been the Holy Spirit who routinely makes up the difference between my fatally flawed natural character and something resembling commendable character. Without Him, I’d have bolted years ago.

Expectations Can Kill You

Let’s face it, if you have been thrust into a caregiving role, your life has changed, and your nice predictable business-as-usual environment has just gone out the window.

And that brings me to the pregnant word “expectations.” I’ve seen caregivers go through stages of anger, resentment and even bitterness because they have refused to adjust their expectations of what life SHOULD be, to what it actually IS. Those mental pictures of ocean cruises, leisurely strolls in the country and hopping in the car and spontaneously going someplace are hard to give up. But go they must.

You are enrolled in a character-formation program and it’s full of hard knocks. But it’s worth it IF you are willing to turn over control of your life to a much higher and infinitely more qualified “higher power.”

God Sizes Every Trial to Your Individual Capacity

One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:27-28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

In other words, God isn’t going to dump you into a mess that’s way above your “pay grade” and just leave you there. He sizes every trial to your individual capacity and always makes sure it is for the greater good. The only qualification is that these promises apply “to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

When God entrusted Ann into my care as her husband, it was like handing a Stradivarius violin to a gorilla. It was messy and lots of things got broken. But somehow, in God’s ingenious way, He made all the moving parts of our respective lives “work together for good.” I’m still a gorilla, but at least I’m starting to appreciate violin music.

How About You?

Are you over your head with something thrust upon you? Look up, not down. See what miracles God has in store for you.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”1

D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

1. 1 Peter 4:12-13 New American Standard Bible

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