Though you might speak to many people in the course of your days you might still feel incredibly alone. After all, how many times can you discuss the strange events of your life, the alarming behaviors you see in (or endure from) a loved one, and the shock you feel repeatedly? You live, perhaps, surrounded yet isolated. You rise each day, perhaps weary and afraid, with a chokehold on faith in God for guidance and a heart of kindness. In your days of isolation you might not be told often enough, “Your faithful love is divine,” and today I want you to hear it.
Even if bouts of despair or anger pock your days, you stand as a testimony to Solomon’s words, “Love is stronger than death.” Before you deny it, let me explain. Today I read about a mother named Rizpah in the book of Samuel who loved her two sons so much she stood watch over them after they died to protect their bodies from scavengers.
“…she took sackcloth (used when grieving) and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and allowed neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night” (2 Samuel 21:7-10).
Her sons were gone and yet her love moved her to the most practical actions she could put her hands to: beat off the beasts. No one, no thing, would deface her helpless boys. Her love was stronger than death and rode right over its pull into the grave.
The more I read about spouses and parents who face the challenges of schizophrenia or dementia, the more I find statements like this: “The person I knew is gone,” or “I’m grieving even though he’s still alive.” Those same caregivers continue to stand guard and do their utmost to protect the ones they love from harm. You love someone alive, though the person he or she once was seems to have slipped away.
One blog commentator pointed out that “the presence of love, not genetic sequencing,”¹ would be the best cure for a person who “has come to withdraw deeply into a world of his or her own.” Withdrawn so far as to seem gone, dead to the life he or she once had. The blogger did not see a biologic problem in need of a pill, but a person in a horrifying flight in need of a strong ministry of love. Whatever the cause, isn’t love fitting? Above every other remedy you’ve tried, dear caregiver, you have loved in the most practical ways you can put your hand to.
Sufferers of cancer have the well-supported LIVESTRONG organization to come alongside and assist. Sufferers of schizophrenia often only have family members to assist, family members who LOVESTRONG.
Even if from a distance for the sake of safety. The mother from Canaan whose daughter was “grievously vexed with a demon” left her daughter in another province as she went in search of a cure (Mt. 15:21-28).
Even if, for now, no one knows for sure where the sufferer lives. “…your brother was dead…and was lost…” The father of the prodigal son—his once upon a time delightful son —never stopped scanning the horizon for signs of a restored child (Lk. 15:11-34).
If you could find a way to embrace the one who has pushed you away (or has run away), you would. You never really stop searching, thinking, praying, hoping.
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.”
You continue faithfully and often secretly to bear a loved one’s burden through a torrent of symptoms and questions. Like Rizpah you have taken a stand in an uncomfortable place. Exposed to suffering. Solitary. This persevering and sacrificial love is divine—divinely inspired, divinely enabled, and a reflection of God’s kind of covenant love to his children. Your faithful love, dear caregiver, is divine.
¹ “Search for Schizophrenia Gene Marches On” by Kermit Cole, comment section of Mad in America website, http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/06/search-for-schizophrenia-gene-marches-on/