The children and I are serving a local Relay for Life next spring. There are so many areas where we could serve, which is really what “leading” is. Leading is simply serving with an identifiable name tag.
When the opportunity to serve with Relay came up, I was surprised. Every door I have knocked on for an involved outlet has slammed shut, but this one opened right in front of me as I was walking down the hallway of life. The odd thing is we’ve participated with Relay before, and it wasn’t the greatest experience. We’ve never participated with this group, and if you had asked me what I wanted to do with my time and energy, this would have never hit the brain waves. BUT, oddly, once it popped up, I was excited.
It was not the kind of, “Thank you for the perfect thing I’ve been praying for the last forever but it is finally here,” kind of excited. It was the excitement of feeling like this is where I’m supposed to be, like there is something in me the people here need, like their world will be better because for this kairos moment in time God put me there.
So, I met with our community director Monday, and we went to the meeting last night, and the whole time I’m thinking, “I know I am supposed to be here, but really, nothing is grabbing my heart. None of this feels like me. None of this feels natural. None of this feels like breathing.”
When the meeting was over, I wondered if I had made a mistake. The kids were excited. We had ideas for theme and team themes, fundraisers, and so on. Everything seemed to be exactly what it should be, except me. I was lost.
Before we left, I took a moment to speak with our event chair, and somewhere in the conversation about dismal experiences, needing to feel encouraged, the caregivers need to be given care, and the courage it takes to take care of someone you love who may die, the answer came to me. THAT is my heart.
My heart is to care for the caregivers. My heart is to shepherd the sheepdogs. Who is taking care of the warriors who are watching over everyone else? Unless you’ve been a caregiver or a watchman or the sheepdog or the warrior, you don’t know the burden. You don’t know the responsibility.
As a caregiver in any capacity, you know how to cover others. You know how to pour yourself out so others get filled. You know how to give so others have. You know how to encourage others.
You also know how few encourage you.
There was a day a few months after my husband died when I sent a text to a few friends. It was a horrible day. Wonder Girl’s birthday had just passed. Mother’s Day was coming up, and I missed Mom horribly, not to mention it was my first Mother’s Day single, and what would have been a 20th anniversary was looming not far ahead. Plus, I had just taken an emergency medical response class, which had generated dreams of Rob dying in my arms. Needless to say, it was an emotionally battering week, worse than the typical battering, and I sent a simple text saying I didn’t think I could get out of bed that day. The response was astonishing.
The first response said, “Jerri, you have the strongest faith of anyone I know. If you can’t have faith to get out of bed, what does that mean for the rest of us?”
Another one said, “I never took you for a quitter. Guess I was wrong.”
Two mentioned the fact that I had two kids to take care of so I had better get my butt out of bed and do my job.
One told me as a Christian I needed to repent for not trusting God and questioning His ability to help me with the day.
The other one didn’t reply. I was glad.
You might be appalled at those responses, and you might think they rare. Unfortunately, I’ve talked to a lot of warriors who have given and given until they are exhausted, and in a moment of courageous vulnerability reached for reinforcements only to be shot by the people they reached out to.
Rare is the person who grabs the reaching hand and holds strong, knowing even warriors need care.
But I know.
And this morning I am pondering how to care for these warriors—how to give them a place to breathe, give them a place to refuel, give them a hand they know won’t give way. I am considering how to encourage the courageous, how to let them know I think they are amazing for the path they have chosen.
How do I take my battle scars and turn them to balm?