Caregiver

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Kitty Thievery

Think of the ones you love–whether persons, hopes, dreams–

reach down deep
into the recesses of your tenuous, tired heart
and see that you have the strength to keep going
simply because you care.

He longs to join the caring,
as the one who raised it in you,
like a breadmaker who works his hands into the dough.

Let the yeast permeate–
let him work his caring deeper into you.

And yet,
so often,
we feel alone in caring.

Rather than tasting
the sweet warmth of freshly-baked bread,
we feel the tearing of crust from flesh,
the scabs of our past caring that left wounds.

Because caring hurts.
In this world, to care is to risk everything.

Do you feel it?
The temptation to turn it off.
Switch to autopilot,
switch to obligation,
switch to apathy.

The heat is turning up.
Don’t turn it off, friend.

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it cannot bear fruit (John 12:24).

Then grain must be threshed before it can be dough.
Bread must go through the fire before it can be eaten.

Death is promised–and you will feel it–but it’s not permanent.

Your portion
is his hands cupped around bread, the breaking;
and his hands cupped around blood, the pouring.

Your portion
is communion with him in the needing,
and connection with him in the kneading,
and resurrection with him in the rising.

Your portion
is his care for your life.

If we could get the perspective of this breadmaker-caregiver,
could it change the risk in caring?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the Psalmist sings,
what is the son of man that you care for him? (8:3-4).

Lift your eyes a little higher than the heat.

(Jesus calls himself the “son of man,” remember?)

You have put him a little lower than God and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet (5-6).

Including discouragement, defeat, death.

Whether you are the one giving care or the one needing care,
or, like most of us, a little of both,
the man who was made perfect by the breaking, who was the first to do the raising,
is the one who wants to share in your suffering.

God wants to lend you his strength.
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong from yourself (Psalm 80:17).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you…
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:6, 7, 10).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Feeding Friendship

friends
These are my friends, Joe and Matthew, on a hike up Cave Hill, N. Ireland.

Last autumn, Jesus told me to open up my heart, that he wanted to teach me friendship.

Nine months later, I’ve barely begun to understand what the concept is, nevermind the actually being of a friend.

All I know is, I have to learn his friendship toward me before I can be a friend to anyone.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked his friend for the third time.

“You know I love you,” Peter answered, injured that his master kept pressing the question.

“Then feed my sheep.”

What was Peter internalizing after that exchange, after Jesus promises him a painful remainder of his life, and commands him to follow anyway?

I wonder if Peter internalized the same things I’m realizing about friendship.

Jesus isn’t being manipulative–if you love me, then you will…x, y, and z. He isn’t like men, with muddled motive and masked insecurity. He isn’t bossy.
Didn’t he say to his disciples before his crucifixion, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn’t know what his master is doing, but I call you friends”?
Jesus was giving Peter another chance, based on what he knew about his friend. Peter’s heart had changed since the resurrection. His faith was ripe, his fear of men eradicated.

For the three times he had denied knowing Jesus before men, Jesus gave him three times to declare his love in a newly-resurrected heart.

I feel Peter’s heartbreak. I know what it is like to look Jesus in the face and wish I had never denied him, to try to convey the depth of a new commitment because of the grace he showed.

The funny thing is, Jesus knows even better than I do. No one has explored the depth of my loyalty more than he, and no one is excited for me to discover it myself more than he. He knows how compelling and far-reaching his grace is.

He knew the life Peter would live and the death Peter would die, an upside-down crucifixion. He lets Peter–the man who once, rather, three times, denied him–in on the secrets things is doing. He calls him friend.

And tells him to feed his sheep.

Why? Why doesn’t he respond to Peter’s emphatic I-love-yous with “I love you, too”?That’s what friends usually do, isn’t it?

Nope. Feed my sheep. Not as in, Take-care-of-my-pets-while-I’m-on-vacation-in-heaven, but as in, Give-yourself, broken-body-poured-out-blood-for-the-life-of-the-world.

The bread I give for the life of the world is my flesh, Jesus preaches in his most offensive sermon ever (John 21). 
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Bread of heaven, broken and given for us on the cross.
You are my friends, if you do what I command.
Feed his sheep. Give the broken, redeemed bits of my flesh for the life of a friend, because he did the same for me.

And because I love him now.

For each time I have disowned and rejected him, I have experienced an equal grace to instead love him with the love he gives.

Only from that place can I learn to offer his broken-body friendship to those who are starving.

And only from that place can I receive the friendship I so desperately crave. I just wanna eat you up, so to speak…. Because you will nourish me, help me grow, mature, and change into the glorious woman of Christ’s making.

Because we are made for fellowship, the breaking and partaking of bread. We are meant to partake of one another’s brokenness in order to taste the sweetness of Jesus’ perfect wholeness.

We were made to be friends, you and I.

We are made to be friends, you and I, and Jesus.