Saturday, November 07, 2009

Caregiving as Crucifixion

[What follows is not an invitation to a pity party... no cards or letters please :)]

Many years ago two of our good friends bought a cool work of art that abstractly depicted Jesus hanging on the cross. They gave it to us with a love note that said: "We see how both of you spend your lives helping people. We also see how some of them crucify you after you help them."

If you are a caregiver with a heart to rescue people and marriages and families out of the dark pit of hell, you will get crucified. Not by everyone. But by some. I forewarn you if you do not already know this. I encourage you if you already do.

There will be some who, when through God you rescue them, will be eternally grateful. As I am, to those who rescued me. In fact, let me name some of them right now: John and Ruth Peterson, Steve Kovic, Marshall Foster, Tim and Dorothy Ballenger, Pastor Harvey Johnson, Pastor Clarence Anderzon, William Lane Craig, David and Nancy Augsburger, John and Bev Powell, Colonel Will Bisgaard, and my life-saving partner-of-a-wife, Linda Lawson Piippo. As for Linda and I, we do receive letters from people in our past as well as from our immediate past. Some are so grateful it's almost embarrassing and we point out that God is the One who rescues, and he sometimes uses people to do it. We also wonder if there is any greater joy in life than to be an ex-prisoner whom God uses to break others free from the chains that bind them.

When, in Jesus' name, you follow the call to rescue-caregive, you enter Satan's playground. Imagine yourself as Frodo Baggins, standing on a hill, looking at Mordor. On it is a cross. In Mordor there is far more than meets the counselor's eye. Reason will not work. You will meet people who are as welcoming as a Gollum or an Orc. You will not be wanted there. The battle will not be, essentially, against flesh and blood. Note this: many people who are in bondage do not want to be rescued. Bondage has become their norm. You threaten to upset them. The love of God, through you, will take them out of their comfort zones. The battle is on.

In this spiritual battleground a lot of strange and wonderful things can happen. First, the wonderful. I have seen people get healed, delivered, restored, renewed, provided for, loved, sozo-ed, and returned to life in the Kingdom. Next, the strange. I have poured many hours of love and care into people only to find, eventually, that I am their problem and they tell me so, or tell others about me. I have been slandered, mocked, threatened, and hated. By people I have not only tried to help out have actually helped. They get free, and use their freedom to figuratively crucify me. I am no longer shocked by this. Sadly, I know I have done this myself to others in the past. Yet I still feel hurt when this happens. And though Linda and I have sometimes wondered about whether or not to keep traveling to Mordor, there comes the phone call for help and we're figuratively packing our bags and saying good-bye to the safety of our little Shire. In the Name of Love and the One Who rescued and still rescues us.
Have you seen the movie "The Mission?" Caregiving-as-rescuing is like what happens in this movie. Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro play Jesus-followers who, out of love, enter spiritual hell. They both get killed for it. This pattern is not the exception, but the norm. Be not dismayed when the world hates you when your whole life is one big rescue mission. If the rescuees do not get inner-healed and experience the Father's love you might experience the truth of transference (in psychoanalysis, the process by which emotions associated with one person, such as a parent, unconsciously shift to another, especially to the analyst). You, their rescuer, become that hated parent that they lash out against. Your response then is to be "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." If you are free, and secure yourself in the Father's love, you can say these words with authenticity.
Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Guess what he was talking about? One does not simply walk into Mordor while carrying a cross.