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Care for the caregiver

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

I'd been feeling pretty grieved about my caregiving tasks. In fact, I was fast turning into a person I didn't like at all – heavy-spirited, joyless, constantly finding fault.

Then one day a completely unrelated event helped me get back on track. A friend invited me to go on his boat to see the whales that feed offshore from the seaside town where we lived at the time. All I expected was a welcome respite from my burdens – time off on a strictly surface level. But instead, out on the open ocean with no land in sight, my heart was suddenly filled with a glorious feeling of God's boundless creation and my own place in it.

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Looking around me at the unrestricted horizons of the magnificent ocean, I saw that my mental horizons could not be constricted by the material outlook held by the individual I was caring for. My viewpoint could be spiritually boundless – and I could embrace my relative in that boundlessness, too.

It was a wonderful, shining moment of clarity – of unity with divine reality in which I realized that no situation, no matter how difficult or demanding, could ever turn me – or anyone – into a mean-spirited mortal unless we let ourselves give in to a finite view of ourselves and others. I could see that because my real being is wholly spiritual, I am God's child, the pure, perfect, loving idea He has created, and therefore I can think and act only in God-like ways. And that was true for my relative also.

It was a spiritual turning point for me. And the peace that filled my heart – the recognition that God's holy purpose for His beloved children is all that can ever govern them – has never left me. I never again felt burdened in caring for that relative, nor in caring for others since then.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Through the wholesome chastisements of Love, we are helped onward in the march towards righteousness, peace, and purity, which are the landmarks of Science. Beholding the infinite tasks of Truth, we pause, – wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory" (p. 323).

With the spiritual landmarks of righteousness, peace, and purity as our guides, we no longer have to experience one failure after another. Instead, we can prepare our hearts to accept the glorious concept of life as Jesus lived it, and find, little by little, that we can actually begin to live such a life ourselves.

People don't always remember that the Master washed his disciples' feet. Do you suppose he felt demeaned or put upon by doing that? Hardly! In fact, he told his disciples that that's what they should be doing for one another.

The Bible also says, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:7).

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Giving cheerfully is not always easy, particularly if it's caregiving for a relative or friend when you already have full-time work. But I've learned that no matter how demanding caregiving tasks may seem, when I see myself as serving God instead of serving a person, the Father's gentle chastening purifies and strengthens me. Then, little by little, whatever I need to do becomes an opportunity for spiritual growth rather than a frustrating chore.

We can rejoice that we are doing the work that God has given us to do. We can be spiritually invigorated and sustained, never bound by anyone else's outlook or condition. In fact, increasing our spiritual understanding can help free our loved ones from what they may think is hopeless bondage. To see them in truth as the pure, unfettered ideas that God has created provides a more loving environment that supports their progress toward healing. And in doing this, we will more and more consistently keep our own "conception unconfined … winged to reach the divine glory."