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Our Tender Caregiving God

Some years ago, I visited a refugee camp in northern Thailand. It was more like a prison camp –barbed wire, locked gates, Quonset huts, guard towers. No hope of escape; no possibility of becoming absorbed into a society somewhere – not for these Cambodians who risked their lives crossing Pol Pot’s killing fields. I expected to find depressed and angry people inside.

Instead, I saw laughing children cared for by loving families and equally loving, perpetually smiling, Catholic nuns.

When I was a hospice and hospital chaplain, I witnessed many a saintly caregiver. Some were nurses, others were nursing aides, and many were family members. Perhaps you have cared for a sick loved one – lifting frail bones, gently turning to avoid bedsores. Or, perhaps you have turned pillows behind the fevered head of sick child. You’ve quite likely gently cradled the still soft head of a newborn infant.

Nuns and Peace Corps workers are heroes. Healthcare workers are heroes. Family members who take on the physical tasks of caring for babies and sick kin are equally heroic. Caregivers are gentle, compassionate people.

God is the ultimate caregiver. God is a caregiver to the caregivers, a nurse for nurses, a physician to physicians, a servant to those who serve.

Psalm 41 declares that YHWH will bless the person who cares for the poor. If the caregiver needs care, God will personally “sustain him on his sick bed.”

Based on alternative readings of the Hebrew, I paraphrase verse 3: “YHWH sustains caregivers on their sickbed; in their illnesses, God softly turns them and gently fluffs their pillows until they are restored to full health.”

God (mostly through others, like those parents, nuns, and nurses) cradles your fevered head, wipes the perspiration from your brow, places the cool side of the pillow under you, gently cares for you. The touch of a caregiver’s compassionate hand, is the touch of God.

At times, the care we need is more emotional than physical.

He wasn’t sick – he was dead of gunshot wound to the head when I wiped away the blood oozing from his eyes as his parents sobbed. I’ve been with dying patients whose voices were so weak I had to almost press my ear to their lips to hear what they were saying. The parents needed to grieve without seeing all that blood. The dying needed to be heard.

Hopefully, you have someone in your life who really hears you, really sees you. Sadly, most of us pass one another hearing without listening, looking without seeing.

Regardless, know that God, whose very nature is pure selfless love, hears you, sees you, feels your pain, knows your every tear and sorrow, and cradles you like a nursing mother.

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