Getting hurt isn’t limited to caregiving. All people suffer stuff that leaves marks on our bodies, thoughts and emotions. For caregivers, however, hurts seem to compound because we have to stay in the situation that inflicts them, and stay in it for long stretches of life.
Last week I read a story I’d read plenty of times over the decades of my life. I noticed something I’d not appreciated before: it’s a devastating account of giving in to hurt.
And Miriam died there and was buried there.
Miriam was the sister of Moses. The story starts with her death. We have to read between the lines but I think we are safe assuming that Moses was weighed down with grief.
The funeral is hardly over when
…they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle?
Pardon my language, but what a bunch of bastards. Yes, they are in a difficult location. But Moses, ordered by God to lead the people, is mourning his sister as well as sharing their discomforts. Ignoring all that, they jump him with their complaints, pointedly working in language about dead siblings to rub salt in Moses’ open wound. They whine that their cows are unhappy. Their cows count for more than his dead sister.
Moses and his brother Aaron try to keep it together. They go off in private to pray. And God offers to help.
…and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”
Moses has a sacred staff – a shepherd’s tool, indicating his role as the caregiver of the people. And this item has been a sign of God’s power with him every since he was stuck with the job of looking after them. But as he takes it in hand, Moses gives in to the hurt.
Where God said, “Speak to the rock and call forth water,” Moses decides that the simple word from God isn’t enough. Moses wants to do something badass to show the nasty people just who they’ve insulted. And so
…Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.
His display of anger cost him dearly,
And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
He gets to lead the people to the edge of a Promised Land, but doesn’t get to go in with them.
Our hurts can take a terrible power over our life. They can cause us to miss the help that is with us, from God and other people, and to lash out in spasms of emotion that create more problems than they solve. They can make us stumble and fall way short of our values and our hopes.
At some point, we must come to acceptance, or forgiveness, or at least some good jokes that take the sting out of old hurts. Sometimes, we can see how they’ve shaped us and taught us, making us stronger or better in some way.
Most of all, we need to listen for the voice that reminds us that we are not alone, and that we are defined by the One who loves us, not the hurts we carry.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)