As I tearfully drove my mother down to hospital this morning, a wonderful truth was impressed upon my heart. If this blog is little personal, please forgive me - I hope it may bring some benefit and comfort to other saints who are faced with tricky choices about how to care for loved ones!
A number of months ago she suddenly became unwell - only today, after a number of appointments, are we beginning to get to the bottom of what is really going on.
I went up to her bedroom, with my brother waiting downstairs, and as I looked around, at the lovely home she had, for the first time I wondered if some big life changes might now be on the way?
It's not that we're unique - certainly we aren't: in fact, over the past couple of weeks I been struck by other friends, who have made costly choices, to take care of sick or elderly parents: so in no small part, this post is a massive tribute to God's grace at work in those loving saints!
What I've come to discover, is that when we care for our loved ones who need help, massive blessing can result from what we had maybe, in part, previously viewed as stress.
It can be hard when life is busy, when we are trying to hold down a job, tend to family matters, and fulfill your church responsibilities, to keep all the balls in the air - to tend an elderly relative can wrongly be viewed as the straw that might break the camel's back.
Yet, it has really surprised me, that pouring out love on parents (or other loved ones), can actually lift a weight and help to bring out just how much Christian love God has bottled up in the (God-given) loving hearts of saints!
Even when it is hectic, I've noticed something strange, that when I visit my mum, I've become really serene and calm - a deep loves bubbles up, hidden away in 53 year old depths, to speak softly and gently, to exercise incredible patience, and to shower her with smiles and hugs, that I don't know quite where they're coming from. Meeting her kind eyes, that are sometimes scared or sad - as a once highly articulate nurse tutor tries to stumble over words - has set me free to float on air as she has ministered to me.
To be quite blunt, this morning, afresh, I marvel at God's grace (there is nothing, for sure, remotely good, praiseworthy, or merit-worthy in my own flesh) - what love God puts in the Christian, by uniting us with the loving heart of our exalted Mediator Christ: all grace is poured out from Him to be His loving instruments to repay ailing, frail, sick or ageing relatives.
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever - 1 Timothy 5:8
This you see, is a vital part of our Christian witness: to show natural affection to kindred is actually also a common grace - it is given, although surely not in the same degree or power, to even godless pagans, and so here it makes it imperative that we Christians must not fall short!
And in these days when love has drained, to some extent, out of the complexion of compassion in the West, it surely shouts out loud that we saints belong to Christ - if the world can glimpse in our care what it is like to be unconditionally and truly loved (for Jesus' sake by our Heavenly Father), it will go some way to recommending they ought to come to church to meet our love-source Christ.
Of course we can wrongly read Paul's command to Timothy and make it sound like a chore - but I urge you children of God, not to miss out on this grace: instead, gladly and freely, seek heavenly love from above, to commit to exercise this God-given, love-gift, as ministering servants of Christ.
I know there are some situations where costly time-consuming care may not always 'feel' great! Down through the years I have encountered those whose care for family seems, at least from the outside, like my worst nightmare!
How anyone manages for years looking after a severely autistic child, I simply cannot tell - I just humbly, shamefully, admire and take off my hat and think 'I don't think that I am humanly capable of that!' But then of course, if God leads us to that place, He will surely supply the grace.
I suppose God gives us, in providence, what He knows we are able to bear - but, I am certain of this, for all the chore and grief, there will also be wells of love, to drink along the path of care, as His eternal fountain of Christ-like grace becomes an instrument in our lives for doing our loved ones good.
So, children of God, sons, daughters, children and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, husbands and wives, cousins and friends, pour out the magnificent love of God.
In the Redeemer, Repay your Relatives!