I know Faith and the Draft part 1 was a bit of a bait and switch–at least for some of my football fans! Read it if you haven’t, it will set the stage for this article.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you [ My loving-kindness and My mercy are more than enough-always available-regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.
At times in our life’s journey we are thrust onto another path than may be our choosing, these are paths that are not the “norm” and I have labeled them “subgroups”. Cancer fighters, special needs parents and children, the disabled, caregivers, those suffering from chronic illness or the mentally ill, widows or foster children would all be classified as “subgroups”. There are many many more, with the “subgroups” being divided into even smaller groups. The one thing that these subgroups have in common, while the individual may have contributed somewhat to their being part of that group–these are usually not a group anyone would choose to belong to. However, I have found by experience God can and is doing great things in the lives of those who are part of these subgroups.
The initial entry is usually unexpected and overwhelming. Your child has Down Syndrome or is autistic is not something any parent anticipates. I’m sorry to tell you that the tests came back positive and you have cancer. I’m sorry your husband has suffered a heart attack which threw a massive blood clot and is basically blind, deaf and gone. (This last sentence was the beginning of my derailment into the subgroup of caregiver!) I was confused and my faith, though in tact, I admit wobbled a bit. But the interesting thing about being in a subgroup–there is no going back. If you choose to accept the situation as your new “normal” it can be a very life changing learning experience. I felt weak and disorientated in the first few days and weeks. The body of Christ showed up–bringing their faith, their strength and their help. It was amazing. Church, we need to identify these subgroups so we can help each other–in big ways and small ways.
I wrestled with my new normal for quite awhile–I wanted to go back to my old life. Some cancer fighters who are healed can go back to a more pre-subgroup life, but they are still changed. The experience brings them into a new community of other fighters who have common experiences of chemo, radiation and other treatments. They can help others in their fights–supporting and encouraging; or they choose to shut down and run from the memories and let others fight alone. It is our choice with any subgroup–fight it alone, or join with others. It is much easier to do life in community. That is why there are so many “support” groups.
It has been nine plus years since I became a member of the caregiver subgroup. A friend of mine is now her husband’s caregiver. We saw each other at Walmart and I was able to encourage her with hope plus give her some practical tips that I learned. In a week it will be seven years since I transitioned to a new subgroup–widow. Another new journey change.
During my time as a caregiver I met new people–therapists, doctors and other caregivers. It was an opportunity to be a light in the midst of people I would never meet otherwise. I chose to ask the Lord to help me touch these people as He willed. I watched Him answer that prayer. Joining a subgroup opens up your life to new experiences and opportunities to learn. Take advantage of it! I chose to trust that God had a plan that was bigger than me and He was with me in this journey as He had when I was not part of these subgroups! He showed up. Look for Him. Ask Him to show you what you can do, stop focusing on what you feel you have “lost”, but look up! It is not easy. Your enemy becomes “why me?” and “self pity” and “what if” and “if only”….but our Gracious God sees you right where you are. He is a very present help in your time of trouble. Call on Him often.
If you are reading this and your are not a part of a “subgroup”, you may be the answer to someone’s need. Look around you, make yourself available–a word of encouragement, a meal, a phone call or physical help may be just the thing that is needed to help others. Learning to love others in action and deed is amazing. Sometimes we don’t know what to do or say–do the most loving thing you can think of–and when in doubt–you could always ask “how can I help you?”
I did feel “drafted” into the world of caregiver and widow. I had no choice. People commented “you are so strong”, I felt weak the scripture above encouraged me. It wasn’t easy, but I have learned so much. I miss my husband, but I’ve chosen to live my life as fully as I can to be useful for my family and His Kingdom. I had an amazing first part of my life. But I also have an amazing “subgroup” life as well. It is just different.