It wasn’t long and our paths would cross. When the son saw me, he immediately made a bee-line straight towards me. The father quickly came around the cart in a vain attempt to intercept his son. I could see the worry in his eyes. I just nodded and said it was ok.
The boy came up to me and stuck his hand out. When I shook his hand, I understood the father’s fear. He had the grip of a bear and the hands to match. He was not only a big boy, but one with great strength. Given his mental capacity he could easily hurt someone without knowing it. I am sure the father’s fear was twofold. First, he was worried about how strangers would react to his son. People can be cruel and I am sure he had seen his share of that cruelty towards both himself and his son. He also had to be worried about what his son might do to someone less than thrilled to make his acquaintance.
The son would take my hand and shake it. Then he would let go for a moment and then grab my hand and shake it again. He kept doing this until his father was able to guide him back to their cart. I asked him his name. It was John. I smiled and told him I was very pleased to meet him. Then I turned to his father and asked his name. He was Russ. I told Russ that he was a good father for caring for his son the way he was.
This would be the first of several encounters I would have with Russ and John. The next time I ran into them John rushed over to shake my hand as if it were the first time. Russ quickly came over to guide his son back. The worry in his eyes went to surprise when I greeted John by his name and asked him how he was doing. His mouth hung open when I turned to him and did the same. He sheepishly looked down and told me that he did not remember my name. I assured him that it was fine; that it was he and his son who made an impact on my life.
Recently, I took communion to a man who had just suffered a severe stroke and was recovering in a rehab facility. I saw the look of sadness in his eyes that I often see in people in his situation. There is a feeling of shame that they have to be cared for by others. This is especially common in men who have provided for the people they love their entire lives. Now they themselves need to be cared for and they feel like a burden on all those around them.
I encouraged the man not to be downhearted. He was not useless. He was not a burden on his wife or the caretakers at the facility he was in. He did not understand that he was serving a very important purpose. People like John and this man, those who require the assistance of others, they act as conduits of God’s grace to flow to those who care for them. God is sacrificial love and love is never wasted with God. God’s favor shines down on those who care for others out of love.
The look in the man’s eyes suddenly changed. I saw a sense of relief come into them. The man realized that his suffering had a purpose and that purpose was to bring God’s grace to the woman he loved the most in this world. This was something he could be thankful for.
We do not suffer for suffering’s sake. Our suffering isn’t without purpose. It is if we hold on to our suffering, refusing to offer it as a gift. The devil wants us to turn our suffering inwards, to keep it as our own. Suffering is the currency of love. Money we keep in a jar under our bed has no value. The value of currency is what we choose to spend it on. The best spent money is the money used for the betterment of another. Like with any other currency, we can offer our suffering for a greater good. When we allow others to care for us in our suffering God’s favor flows through us to them. They receive a blessing for the love they show and we receive a blessing for our cooperation with God’s will.
This is what made Christ’s passion so powerful. Jesus held none of his suffering back for himself. He offered all of his suffering for the love of us. It is through his suffering that the wages of sin were paid, death was conquered, and the blessing of everlasting life flow through him to us.
Jesus gives us the perfect example on how to embrace our suffering with joy, offering it to God so he can use it to deliver his grace to those who care for us with love. It also gives us reason to be joyful and loving caregivers to those in need, especially those who are the most difficult to care for. Both the caretaker and the cared-for receive grace when suffering, the currency of love, is offered for the other.
Go and be a blessing to all those you meet today.