hidden glory

Friday, August 31, 2007

to care ... and not to care

I've just finished reading the best chapter on caring that I've ever come across. It was so good that I had to take it just tiny bits at a time so as to truly savor it. And to pray that it would sink in as I'm very much in a full-time vocation of caring as a counselor. These are some of my favorite excerpts from Eugene Peterson's chapter "Teach us to care, and not to care" (title from T.S. Eliot's prayer) in his book Subversive Spirituality.

Read and enjoy ... and be challenged.

We begin with a realization of our poverty: We do not know how to care. What we have been prayerlessly engaged in and glibly calling care, is not care. It is pity, it is sentimentality, it is do-goodism ... Caring, noble and commendable as it seems, is initiated by a condition that can, and often does, twist it into something ugly and destructive. That condition is need. ... But there is another element in this scenario that is frequently missed and when missed, silently and invisibly squeezes all the cure out of care. The element is sin. ... We learn how to use the conditions of need as leverage in getting our own way. ... We are created to be open. To be open to God, to open out towards our neighbors. We can only be whole and healthy in so far as we do this. When we are in need, when first-hand experience documents our inability to be whole beings on our own, the first thing that can happen is that we will become more authentically human. Need rips gashes in our self-containment and opens us to the neighbor. Need blows holes in our roofed-in self-sufficiency and opens us to God. But not necessarily. ... If unwary, the person providing care is co-opted into feeding selfishness, which is to say, sin.

So is it clear that we who desire to help those in need have a dilemma? We are called to care -- to enter in to another's pain and suffering -- but how to do so in a way that doesn't merely rehabilitate the person's self-centered sufficiency? We must realize that God has gotten to this person before us. He is already at work, and our work of caring is to join him in his. Read on...

When care is restored to our lives in its true and proper context, the presence and action of God, our caring then becomes an extension of our prayer, instead of just being tacked on to our caring. When this happens, our caring is detached from the controlling context of sin-twisted needs, self-serving ploys, this cultural-spiritual wasteland that Eliot describes so well, the wasteland that drains all the cure out of care. ... What God has done and is doing is far more significant that anything you or anyone else will ever do. What God has spoken and is speaking is far more important than anything you or anyone else will ever say. ... caring must begin with a sense of adoration and wonder. If we do not begin in adoration, we begin too small. If we begin by formulating a problem, by identifying a need, by tackling a necessary job, by launching a program, we reduce the reality that is before us to what we can do or get others to do.

So, God, help us to bow in worship before we attempt to care for another. To ask You what You are already doing, and to have wisdom and strength to enter in to Your work of caring truly. To see the glory hidden behind the pain and beyond the suffering. Amen?


  • Wow, don't really know what to say to that---thanks for giving me something to really think/pray through!

    By Blogger Steve and Miranda, At 3:16 PM  

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