I was so irritated with my husband.
The doctor had advised me to wake him every hour throughout the night. Earlier in the day, he’d braked too hard on an unfamiliar bike to avoid a collision and ended up flying over the handlebars, landing on his head—without a helmet. The resulting concussion was not a shock.
My subsequent duty as his wife and sleeping partner was obeying doctor’s orders to wake him every hour on the hour. I was feeling appropriate compassion and concern for his light-headed condition…until I woke him after his first hour of sleep and inquired, “Who am I?”
Without even opening his eyes, his immediate, flippant answer? “Harriet Lichmann.”
For those of you who never watched Everybody Loves Raymond, Harriet Lichmann was the name of a character Raymond’s mother, Marie, accused her husband, Frank, of having a soft spot for. It was a source of contention that came up often between Marie and Frank throughout the series that depicted everyday comical life.
When my husband replied “Harriet Lichmann,” in his semi-awake state, all sympathy and burden for his care immediately left me like air whooshing from a balloon. I no longer cared if his condition would worsen during the night—and I voiced my new feelings for his ailment quite firmly! I valued my sleep. Why should I keep waking him when he obviously had enough presence of mind to share with me his usual wisecracking responses despite taking my caretaking role seriously?
But I had forgotten in that moment it wasn’t about me.
Recently, one of our neighbors was having surgery for his seventh bout of cancer. His doctors told him Agent Orange, which he was exposed to while serving in Vietnam, is the culprit of his repeated health problems.
He served in the armed forces to protect our freedoms—and is paying a severe, personal price because of it. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs website includes a long list of diseases that are known to be caused by Agent Orange: AL amyloidosis, Chronic B-cell, leukemias, chloracne, diabetes mellitus type 2, Hodgkin’s disease, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, and respiratory cancers, including lung cancer.
Did you skip over that list? Of course, you had the choice to. My neighbor doesn’t have that choice.
My neighbor has experienced way too many of these diseases. I’m humbled by the repeated cost he is being required to pay for your and my freedoms during a long ago fought—and ultimately lost—war.
When we are asked to serve—in any capacity—how often do we ask the question: “What is the cost for me?” Time, talent, and money are often a part of the cost. But, what of the cost to life itself?
Hands outstretched and open are a sign of generosity. Jesus stretched out His hands and gave his life for us. He willingly allowed his hands to be nailed to the cross, giving his life for you and me to give us the ultimate gift—life without pain, worry, or fear.
Yes, my husband survived that concussion—without my conditional assistance. The irritation I felt toward him because he wasn’t appreciating that I was giving up sleep for his betterment seems so petty now. Lord, help me not to be a “petty” giver.
Jesus was the ultimate giver.
May we follow suit even in the trying moments of our days, not stopping to count the cost to give of our time, talent, and money to others. May we stretch out our arms, uncurl those clenched fingers, and learn to truly give without counting.