Watch your tank

I was on stage with Jackson Browne.

OK, it was some civic event, not a concert.

The reason I bring him up is to appear really cool riff on the title track of his 1977 album (remember those?), Running on Empty.

That was about the exhaustion of rock ‘n’ roll concert tours. Not just the long hours and physical exertion (both performing and partying), but the separation from home and the people one loves and who love in return.

2012-12-05_16-55-23_85It’s no great revelation to say that caregivers can wind up “running on empty.” But we run a great risk if we limit our perception to physical and material stuff, like energy and money. The great danger is that our love can be depleted. Not just for those in our care, who can be so demanding, but all the other people around us.

We don’t have a separate tank for each relationship – we have one tank to keep filled.

It is easy to run dry. It isn’t a dramatic event, but a slow, steady draw down of our love. One day we find that we’ve stopped enjoying some of the normal stuff we do with those around us. Then we stop enjoying them. And, sadly, despite their desire to love us, they stop enjoying us as well.

Care giving can keep our foot on the gas, squeezing out that last drop of love to get us graciously through some unpleasant demand. But then comes the simplest request or tiniest unkindness of a loved one, and we find our tank empty. We don’t have even a bit of our self left to share.

It is important to refill that tank. To receive the love of others. To delight in beauty, be it natural or man-made, it’s all God-given. To play aggravating board games with someone who can grouse and laugh about them with you. To talk sports platitudes with the guys and go shopping with the girls (or vice versa if that works for you.)

To be filled with the goodness of and good news of life for a bit, and recognize an abiding love that is ours to draw upon so we can keep sharing it with those in our care.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

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