What does care look like?

posted by Dale Shaver | Aug 21, 2019

One Crisis Away

It was the week before Easter and I was caught up in all the busyness that comes with the Easter season. Thinking through all I had coming up that week as I was getting ready for bed I was startled by a phone call at 10 pm. I picked up the phone to hear my brother talking, “Dad is on his way to the hospital, he had another heart attack.” I responded with I’m on my way, he told me to wait while he went to the hospital to check on Dad’s condition. Since he was 20 minutes from the hospital and I was 4 hours away I waited to hear the news. Two hours later the next call came, “you better come, it’s not looking good.” That began a week of family gathering, taking turns sitting with dad, waiting, until Dad took his last breath here and went home on Good Friday 2018. 

One phone call, one short conversation, one crisis moment changed the course of daily life for me for the last year and a half. What I have come to realize more and more is that we are all one crisis moment away from something that can knock us off course. Not that we lose our faith or the knowledge of Gods’ love for us but that we suddenly are set adrift in circumstances beyond our control.  

The Key to Caring

With an understanding that we are living in community with so many who are one moment from needing someone to step alongside them with support, care and encouragement, what does that care look like?

There are many skills involved in caregiving, but probably the most important is the ability to listen, to really listen. Active listening is hard work, which is why we tend to do it so seldom. Still, listening is the key to all relationships—with ourselves, with others, and with God. Active listening exposes us to others’ pain as well as to their hope. Active listening changes both of us. Doug Manning wrote, “the ear is the most powerful part of the human body. People are healed by the laying on of ears.” As caregivers we should listen before forming opinions, making assumptions or statements about “right” and “wrong,” giving advice, asking or answering questions, offering words of encouragement or forgiveness, sharing scripture, or praying. The first task is to hear the question. 

While listening is the primary method of caring, it can be seen working in multiple ways.

Healing - helping someone be restored to spiritual, emotional and physical wholeness. Sustaining - helping a hurting person to endure and to move beyond a circumstance, reaching toward spiritual growth through endurance and faithfulness in unwanted, harmful, or dangerous experiences.

Guiding - assisting people in making choices between alternative courses of thought and action.

Reconciling - helping to re-establish broken relationships between people and between people and God. 

These four aspects of caring work together, not in isolation.  They are different dimensions of a caring relationship. Taken together, healing, sustaining, guiding, and reconciling makeup a ministry of “nurturing.” Nurturing is helping people continue their journey toward a growing relationship with Christ while walking through the ups and downs of life on a daily basis. 

Where the Gospel fits the Pain

Jesus met people where they were, mired in the muck of their own attempts at living, and gave them permission to begin again. Pastor David Stancil says "caregivers are midwives of eternity, seeing in people more than they are able to see in themselves, as Jesus did." Caregivers listen for the point or points where the Gospel fits the pain, and attempt to make the Good News hear-able through their personal caring ministry. When this happens, life begins to reveal the wonderful possibilities God has promised.

I will always be grateful to the people who have met me in my pain and sorrow. I am eternally grateful to the One who truly knew my pain and sent those people to intersect with me on my journey. If you are on your own personal journey through crises, pain or grief or would like to talk about how you can care for someone contact care@bethel.ch our team would love to hear from you.

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