All four Gospel writers mention the account of Jesus and his disciples entering the Garden of Gethsemane. While he is there he asks Peter, James and John to go with him while he prays. Jesus steps further away from the three disciples to spend time in prayer.
This account shows us God’s Constant Providence. In this moment Christ experiences agony and a trouble state of mind. What could have possibly been surging through the mind of this man at this moment? I want to use this account as a powerful image for us. What if – for the sake of argument – as Christ has knowledge of his betrayal this is literally right around the corner; what if Christ went off by himself because he grew tired of caregiving? If He came to be truly human and to have a true experience of what it is to fully embrace the human experience than surely Christ must have grown weary of all the caregiving that he dished out, all the teaching, all the love and now he is in full realization of the truth he’s known all along: he will die for it? He gets murdered. He gets sacrificed. He even pleads to His Father in heaven that if it were a possibility, please intervene and change your divine plan so that this incident can pass right over me and I can continue moving forward and living.
It is not possible for us to try and get in to the mind of Christ without having feelings of resentment or anger towards humanity. All his work must have felt to him, at times, to be all in vain. The internal conflict Christ experienced was surely agonizing because he knew what he had to do and he knew what the outcome would be.
I have had my share of care giving. It started almost 15 years ago while I began care giving for an elderly family member. I watched as all the love and care was dished out for this person yet hardly a word of thanks or act of appreciation was ever received. The reward of care giving is typically not one that comes from the patient. It is, indeed, a divine and intrinsic reward. But we are human. We want affection and affirmation. We need people to tell us we’re OK, we’re doing well, we’re doing right. But even those words can sound and feel so empty when they aren’t supported by actions.
Caregivers live daily with a myriad of emotions.
ANXIETY AND WORRY Never having complete confidence that you are handling everything exactly right. Worrying what will happen to the one you are caring for if something happens to you and then there’s the future and what it will bring as the illness progresses. Are you really doing everything you possibly can do to help this person.
ANGER OR RESENTMENT
Anger at the world and resentful of others who do not have the responsibilities that you have; at times being angry at the very person you are caring for because you have dropped everything for this person. This leads to grief.
GRIEF Long before the patient may pass away the feelings of grief are there. We mourn the daily loss of this person as they fall deeper and deeper in to an unknown abyss. We mourn the loss of ourselves, our identity and our very purpose. Our hopes and dreams have been put on hold and many may be lost forever. We mourn the loss of time, vacations, relaxation, lovers and dreams. And then you feel guilty.
GUILT. The guilt is strong. Again, are we really doing all that we can? Will my loved ones around me forgive me for being absent so much, or tired, or cranky or short of patience? We find ourselves lacking patience with the one we’re caring for and then we struggle over the acceptance of our role.
I am confident that Christ has felt these emotions as we all have. How Christ handled them and lived through these emotions is an important lesson to us especially as caregivers.
Christ prayed. He rebuked those who were wrong and lovingly corrected injustices. He stood strong for his convictions and stood up for those who could not do it for themselves.
If you are a caregiver I want to encourage you first by reminding you that you are not alone although this journey feels very dark and lonely. And although you have no doubt heard it before, you truly do need to make sure you are caring for yourself. I encourage you to check out this website that has some helpful tips. http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/2008/09/Tips-for-Caregivers.aspx The Mayo Clinic also has some great tips and tools for stress management at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caregiver-stress/MY01231/
Look – as Christ entered the garden he knew what he was facing and yet even he cried out to God to please reconsider who he has chosen for this job. We are not alone and we have the most influential caregiver ever as our role model, our mentor, and our guide. Take time to pray not only for the ones in your charge but for your needs to be fulfilled. Let God know how you feel so he knows you are in agreement. God knows how you feel but many times He just wants you to let him know.
God bless your care giving efforts no matter what capacity it is either part-time, occasional or full-time and all-consuming.