Today we continue our series “Love Showed Up (link to series explanation here)” in which many dear friends from across the globe and internet are sharing their stories of God’s love showing up through his people in the darkest of days. So let’s sit down and soak in this story from Tanya Marlow. Tanya and I are new friends, but it’s a friendship I truly hope deepens. You can just tell she is one of those brave and beautiful souls that make the your world lovelier simply by bringing their true selves into it.
It wasn’t like it was the hugest of tragedies. No one had died. It wasn’t even as though it were completely unexpected: there was always a chance that my pre-existent autoimmune illness (ME) might be made worse by the physical strain of childbirth – we just didn’t know how much worse till we were home with a week-old baby. My body was broken: I could no longer walk more than ten paces and I had to lie in bed for 23 hours a day.
It was a strange time, navigating the new waters of parenthood at the same time as we were facing my new disability; a time of deep joy and tears of the unknown. Jon is a church minister, and we had just moved to a new church one month previously – we had barely begun to get to know this new church family, when suddenly I was plucked from it, spending my days in just one room.
Our church loved us.
This wasn’t about reciprocation: we hadn’t yet done anything to earn their love or respect. They simply loved us because they were our family. However new we were to them, we were blood relatives because we all stood under the cross and called Jesus our friend.
We were kin to them, flesh and blood to them, because of Jesus’ flesh and blood.
I was too ill to speak to anyone, so they could not love through words or presence.
Our church loved us with food and ironed clothes.
So many asked us what they could do for us, but we were at a loss of how to reply – how can you fix what was so obviously unfixable? The most helpful were those who boldly told us, “this is what I will do for you, if that is okay by you”, while we were still staring wide-eyed into the middle distance, so that we didn’t have to try to train our sea-battered brains into problem-solving mode.
They showed up – our new family – they showed up with cooked meals and ironed clothes and thoughtful emails, while we got our hands on the tiller and slowly began to regain our balance.
And they kept showing up.
The most remarkable thing about this whole period was how long they did it for. Our problems were complex: they did not disappear after the customary 1-2 weeks of charity and consideration. Most people find it difficult to continue to be generous for an undefined time period. We can do generosity for a crisis, we are good at doing the acute, the emergencies – but what of the chronic? What of the single parents, for whom it is always a juggling act to get food on the table each day? What of the cancer patients not just during chemo, but the weeks afterwards, when the disabling fatigue hits unexpectedly?
It is much harder to keep giving to a needy person or family when they don’t seem to ever emerge from that needy position, when you can never say that you have ‘fixed’ them, when your contribution will always be needed or appreciated. It is harder to keep on giving when there is no fixed end point.
Our church family, they kept on giving, as the days stretched into weeks and then months.
We had cooked meals and ironed clothes for months afterwards, and those significant acts of love and service for us just helped us to keep afloat. More than that, it showed us the enduring nature of the love of God at a time when so much else was uncertain.
This is love: to do what you can, even when you don’t know the person well, even when their problems are ongoing and unfixable and there is no clear end in sight.
This is love: to think beyond just the crisis point to those situations which are chronic and unabating.
This is love: to show up, and keep showing up.
Tanya Marlow was in Christian ministry for a decade and a lecturer in Biblical Theology. Now she reads Bible stories to her little boy as she learns what it means to housebound with a severe autoimmune illness. She likes answering the tricky questions of faith that most avoid, and writing honestly about suffering and searching for God. She blogs at Thorns and Gold http://tanyamarlow.com.
Find her on Twitter @Tanya_Marlow or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TanyaMarlowThornsAndGold )
To learn more about Tanya and her story, check out this post: “Why you should care about M.E.” We have to educate ourselves on this disease and then stand up to do something about it.
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