Patient, Enduring Love

          The Bible has a special fondness for the virtue of endurance. Jesus says that the end times will be filled with suffering, but “by your endurance you will save your souls.”

            There is nothing like coping with a sudden, crippling catastrophe to have us begging for patient endurance. Our lives here at Heatherhope have been turned upside down by the broken hip suffered by Connie on November 17, 2012 (read about it in the post “Injury causes cancellation of Epiphany at Heatherhope”).

            Every day on the farm it takes close harmony to make things work. Normally Connie has charge of the indoor chores of kitchen and laundry, and I have charge of the outdoor work of tending to the seven sheepdogs, Frodo, the guard dog, and the flock of sheep. But we constantly help each other. I pitch in on washing the dishes, tidying up a bit, etc., while Connie lends a hand with the flock and kennel as she can.

            Now, of course, Connie’s broken hip has drastically curtailed her mobility. Ramps and grab bars have been installed and a hand-held shower head. I have to handle her wheel chair and do all the driving and set out her clothing at times. She has learned to maneuver wheel chair and walker enough to do more and more of her own dressing, washing and meal preparation. But everything has changed.

            Outside, upstairs basement work is all mine. And things that used to take seconds now take laborious minutes and hours for both of us.

            It takes a half-hour longer just to get outside the house to do the morning chores as I have to help Connie get started first and do extra stretching and soaking to get my own aching body moving right.

            Think of the negotiating it takes to get through dinner. I can move faster, but Connie is in her wheelchair and blocks the way around the kitchen table and sink. And one of the reasons she rejoices in being home is that she can DO SOMETHING to help. So we must both learn to let some things go.

            But for her not to be simply a patient, I must be patient. And she must be patient with me not knowing where to look in the high shelf in her closet for that special sweater she wants to wear, and to go back for the one and two other things that she needs now. And she must be patient with me as I roll my eyes, thinking I could put those clean dishes away so much faster and throwing out some sarcastic remark such as, “Oh, yes, while you are there, why DON’T you  just do it yourself. That’ll be easy.”          

            Connie and I both ached to miss each other while she spent over a month in the hospital and rehab center. But being together–annoyingly together—coping with her broken hip and my aching hands and knees and impatient ways—is hard too.

            To endure—to patiently endure—requires us to remember the love that we live on. The milk and honey of one another’s loving presence—that is what we require.

            All of us are lovable and loving some of the time. When we are rested, comfortable, well fed and perhaps have a cup of good coffee in us, it’s easy to be lovable and loving.

            But all of us are annoying much of the time. And some of the time we are downright unlovable. When we are tired and sore on the outside we become fed up and injured on the inside and we act out in unloving ways.  Our eyes no longer comfort, but roll back in our heads. Our words take on a dull edge. Our sighs are no longer for each other, but against.

            All of life takes spiritual work. Being bound together as caregiver and care-receiver perhaps takes the most spiritual work of all.

            What is required is the work of allowing Christ to do God’s Gospel work on us. While we were weak, ungodly sinners, Christ died for us—saved us, reconciled us, and loved us back to life (Romans 5:6-11). A hundred times a day, when caregivers and care receivers have to finagle and manage a life together, they must be loved by a forgiving Christ back to a loving, lovable way of being for each other.

            God, grant Connie and me that necessary, sustaining grace.

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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