Foreword to Ambushed by Grace

From the book by Shelly Beach, Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey

In her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott said, “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

When I began caregiving six years ago, I did not expect to embark upon a journey of grace. I expected to learn of service and sacrifice, to explore new facets of patience and tolerance, love and forgiveness, but I did not expect to be changed at the core of my being. I did not know then what I know now—that caregiving, by the power of God’s grace, can be a work of redemption powerful enough to reverberate into the hearts of those around us.

I did not expect caregiving to strip me down and reveal my motives, my passions, my agendas, and my priorities. I did not expect it to pin me to the mat in a spiritual wrestling match, sweaty and writhing, until I saw for the first time what it meant to live like Jesus—to selflessly, passionately pour life into life without regard for self.

Caregiving is a gift that comes wrapped with the price tag still dangling, a tag that reads Inestimable Cost, Eternal Value. God presents this gift to us, as He does all His gifts, as an opportunity to conform us to the image of His Son, to draw us more tightly to His heart as we learn to depend on Him. It’s as if His desire is to bind us to himself in a spiritual three-legged race until our pace matches His own, and the means He uses to entwine our body to His is the care of our loved one. It wasn’t until I learned to relinquish my stride to His, to abandon control of my direction, and to match the rhythm of my pace to His that I discovered He was carrying me like a child standing upon her father’s shoes, clinging to his legs as she stared into his face, waiting for the next step.

This is a book that offers practical advice, Web sites, phone numbers, and wisdom from experts in the fields of geriatrics and family counseling. But first and foremost, it is a book intended to draw you into the Word and to sensitize you to the work of the Spirit of God in your life. To make caregiving simply a task is a distortion of its purpose; rather, it is a divine appointment, a redemptive encounter, and an act of worship.

You may be well down the path in your caregiving journey, or perhaps you don’t know where to place your feet for the first steps. Let me assure you, wherever you are in your journey, you aren’t alone. God has called you, and He will carry you as you learn to relinquish your stride to His, despite your fears or misgivings. No one loves your dear one more than God himself. You’re in partnership with the God of the universe to cherish and minister to one of His unique image bearers, whether he or she is a glowing saint, a salty sinner, or somewhere in between.

Be prepared to be ambushed by grace on the journey ahead. God intends to use caregiving to change the very heart of you. He desires to transform you by the mystery of grace into the image of His beloved Son as you learn how to minister to your loved one’s needs, ease that needy one’s pain, pour balm on family wounds, and work at the challenge of healthy boundaries. It will be a difficult journey, to be sure. But God will meet you where you are, and He will faithfully bear you up for every step. You are encompassed on every side by His presence. Your hope is eternal, rooted in the character of God himself.

When I wrote the words of this manuscript months ago, I didn’t know I’d be making the last edits for publication of them as I sat beside my mother’s still and silent body during her final hours on earth. I didn’t know God would graciously choose to end her suffering from Alzheimer’s disease with a sudden fall and brain injury, allowing her to sleep her way to glory surrounded by the loving ministrations of her family. I didn’t realize my own words would point me to the truth of God’s Word during the moments when I needed it most.

But God had it planned from the beginning—His plan for my mother’s final breath and His plan to comfort my heart with the reality of His presence as her pulse stilled beneath my fingers.

“For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me
and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:11–13

The mystery of caregiving is the mystery of grace—the grace that God will not leave us where He finds us, and that when the journey is over, if grace has done its transforming work, we will find ourselves lost in the reality of His love for us more and more along the way.

©2008 Discovery House Publishers – All rights reserved.