Put on your oxygen mask first! We hear it time and time again when we fly. It is vital that we take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others. Our mind can be overwhelmed with questions such as: How can I ensure they are taken care of, both now and in the future? How can they participate at church? Are they healthy? When will our next visit to the hospital be? But through it all, caregivers need to prioritize their health so they can continue to care for those around us. I am talking not only about physical health but also spiritual health. If we aren’t spiritually fed then we cannot expect to feed those around us.
First and foremost, whatever it takes for you to feel the presence of God on a consistent basis that is what you need to do. There were years when I would go to church, but was unable to attend service in the sanctuary since my husband was involved on the platform in music ministry and in speaking. I would sit with our kiddo in the nursery, far away from God’s presence and the body of Christ. Even though the nursery was right outside of the sanctuary, it is amazing what a difference those few feet make!
Eventually we hired someone, using state subsidized money, to care for our child during the service. Some churches hire professionals, similar to how schools do, to provide care for those who have special medical needs during church time. Others use people in the church on a rotational basis so they can enjoy God’s presence. Some partner with another family and take turns. Some families trade off with their spouse every week, one going to church and the other watching their medically unstable loved one. Is it ideal? Of course not, but there are many things in life that aren’t ideal. But what a difference just a few moments in His presence makes! So much strength can be gained at the altar with the body of Christ carrying your burden with you. As the song says, “Oh, the joy that floods my soul.”
Q: I am not a caregiver, what can I do?
A: I encourage you to start watching. Look around, if there are individuals with special needs in your congregation. What is their caregiver doing? Watch during worship, watch during preaching, watch during altar service. Are they able to participate? Do they head for the door and never come back? Where do they go? What are they doing? Could you volunteer to do that once a month and give them the gift of focusing on God? What a blessing it could be if you would!