I have been taking care of Nancy since her surgery last week. She is progressing well but she is still sore, and has limitation on bending and lifting. Sometimes just getting out of a chair or out of bed is a challenge. She calls me to pick up a dropped knitting needle or piece of paper, to tie her shoes or remove her boots. I am preparing meals and doing what little housework is being done.  (I’ll get to that next week…)

And Nancy keeps apologizing for my having to do all these things. But apologies are not necessary. I am glad I can be of help. It is also a reminder of all the things that she usually does so regularly and quietly and often unnoticed by me. I recall how she has been there doing all sorts of things when I was laid up with my surgery.

But I have found as well that within myself I see in it a chance to make up (on a small scale) for the times I have been foolish, stupid, unreasonable, have not listened or understood, or have some way or another have messed up or caused her irritation or pain.  I see this as a way I can pay her back. Yet the truth I know intellectually is that I really cannot pay her back with a few pots of tea, a little laundry, and some meals. And I know that she is not expecting that I “pay” for her love and caring just as I don’t expect her to pay for mine.

If this is how love works on a human scale then how God’s love works must be even more deep and accepting – even to the point of being prodigal as Jesus points out in the parable. We cannot earn or pay back God’s love because it is already there. All we can do is savor it, give thanks for it and live it out in our life by sharing it with others. We pay it forward by sharing it with other children whom God loves and cares about.

And we learn this lesson over and over and have to be reminded again and again. I am grateful that Nancy is improving and she will not need me as a care-giver in a few days several weeks.  But I am also glad that I can do this for her – and that it becomes a lesson for me to help me learn what I already know and yet forget.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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