I just wanted him to notice me. It had been an hour since he returned home from his meeting at the church. I spent most of that hour in bed, nursing a pulled muscle in my back. Nursing a heart-hurt as well. Seems as if there have been a few of these kinds of aches lately. Internal, soul-pains with no immediate cure but for the passage of time and the tenderness of God. And so I waited for him to make that trek down the hall to our back bedroom … to notice me. To ask a few questions. To join me in my misery.
Ever tried that one before? Using your pitiful estate to procure collective pity? I can’t be the only one out there wielding this emotional manipulation. We all (especially us women) have an arsenal full of management techniques we’re willing to implement in order to secure the attention of others. Unfortunately, mine wasn’t working. My husband is an “S” on the Myer-Briggs Personality Test, meaning that he gains information through his senses. If he can’t taste it, touch it, feel it, hear it, or see it, it doesn’t exist in his cognitive awareness. So, while I’m back in the bedroom nursing my wounds, he’s not thinking about checking up on me; he’s simply noticing the partially shut door, indicating to him that I’m resting and wanting to be left alone.
What I’m wanting is for him to intuitively know my need without me having to tell him—that’s part of my being an “N” on the Myer’s Brigg, an opposite of being an “S.” But really, this isn’t a post about personality types. Mostly, it’s just about my needing to be noticed, and when he didn’t acquiesce to my silently kept expectations, I added a few frustrations to the wounds I was already self-medicating with self-pity.
Why isn’t he coming back here? What’s more important than my pain? He’s usually so attentive to my needs? Why isn’t he taking the time to notice me?
An hour into my self-soothing, I received my answer. Not through him, but rather through the faint sound of silverware clinking together in the kitchen sink.
He can’t notice you, Elaine. He’s too busy noticing the messy kitchen—those after-dinner dishes that never got washed. He is taking care of you, just through different means. By the way, who’s noticing him? When was the last time someone paused long enough to stop his/her personal self-centeredness to ask Billy, “How are you? How are you handling your pain … your wife’s pain?”
Noticing him. The guilt from not having made many meals in that kitchen for nearly a year is bad enough, but to intuitively feel the pain regarding his pain on this one (again the “N” at work in me) added to my heart ache.
I can’t tell you the last time that someone ministered to my husband along these lines. I don’t know if it’s a guy thing or a preacher thing (maybe even a human nature thing), but it’s not right. As the primary bread-winner and care-giver to a sick wife, my husband carries a heavy load. I couldn’t ask for a better help-mate as we have navigated and continue to navigate these uncertain times. But few have been those who have noticed him … have taken the time to ask the hard questions, wait for the answers, and then act upon the pain that is obviously masked by his need to be strong for all of us. Who’s noticing him?
Why is it that few people take the time to notice the care-givers of sick patients? The friends, spouses, children, extended family members who are caring for the infirmed? Is there a threshold for concern … as if there’s only enough room in our hearts to offer compassion, send comfort to the sick? Is taking on the care-giver simply too much burden added to an already heavy-laden list of those needing care? When did we stop noticing the corporate nature of care-giving? If it “takes a village” to raise a child, then why would it be any different with those who are suffering? Suffering need, needs a village of concerned inhabitants to tend to the sick, care-givers included. They should not be overlooked. Instead, they should be noticed. Be consulted. Be loved, even as the patient is loved.
As the wife of a husband who has valiantly endeavored to “love me as Christ loves the church,” I am sometimes saddened by the response of the “church at large” to love on my man. He needs to be noticed. And I can honestly tell you that he isn’t wielding any weapons in his emotional arsenal to procure attention. He’s just not the type. He’s a humble man with a beautiful heart willing to bend low to wash the feet of a stranger, despite his own feet being sorely in need of a thorough cleansing of communal love.
I don’t tell you this to elicit a response in our direction. I tell you this in hopes that you might consider a care-giver who is within arm’s reach of your ministry today. Someone who needs noticing, who needs a few minutes of your time and your tending. Someone who would benefit from a phone call, a note, a lunch date all offered in the name of God’s love because you understand that loving “the most excellent way” (see 1 Corinthians 13) means putting others’ needs above your own. It’s such a simple thing … noticing the pain of others. It doesn’t take much to abate the human need to be noticed. It simply requires your willingness to re-direct your attention away from self and to channeling that attention in the direction of others.
Perhaps, today, you could give your attention to the care-giver of someone who is sick; in doing so, you give to the patient as well. Don’t wait to be asked. Just do. Do it today; do it because our God has done the same for us.
He noticed us. He notices us still. We must give our hearts–our energies and our efforts–to the same. As always…
Peace for the journey,
PS: The winner of Michael O’Brien’s CD is #13, Stephanie! I’ll have this in the mail to you be week’s end.