WATCHING LONG DISTANCE FEELS LESS REAL
It’s difficult to care as much about something when you’re not confronted with it everyday.
We are often more distressed about our three-year old’s tantrum than a war in a third world country. What we see and experience affects us.
What we experience personally seems more real, not only because we are firsthand witnesses, but because it actually disrupts our life.
It is more difficult to watch when we do not see our loved one regularly. It is genuinely hard to place as much importance on their struggles, not because our love is less, but because it makes up less of our day.
What should we do?
There is only one solution.
WE MUST ACTIVELY CONFRONT OURSELVES WITH THEIR SUFFERING
We have no choice when we are residing close by, but when we are further away, we must consciously and regularly choose to see our loved one’s pain.
So let’s make phone calls or send emails or texts in order to keep up-to-date with their lives. After all, it is hard to remember when the next appointment is when we don’t actually have to drive them.
Let’s schedule time into our lives to bring our loved ones to mind and pray for them.
Let’s try to remain in constant dialogue. This is hard. It takes more effort than ‘normal’ watching, because it’s avoidable. It is not forced upon us; it’s a choice.
It often involves a juggling act of time and motivation and common sense.
But it’s possible.
WATCHING LONG DISTANCE – WE MAY NOT UNDERSTAND
Sometimes words alone just don’t cut it. With long distance watching, we may not understand as much as when we are with our loved one.
A wealth of knowledge is communicated through silence, through body language, and through simply being with a person during the ups and downs of everyday life.
When we are living far away from our loved one, we simply cannot understand their day in the same way as if we had lived it by their side.
We may intellectually understand what they are telling us – but we can’t palpably feel the despair, see the little wrinkle above their eyes, the straining of their fingers, the momentary disappointment when a good day is eaten up by pain or the passing hurt when someone doesn’t notice they are missing from a gathering.
What should we do?
What can we do? We are not superhuman.
Yet we can genuinely make the effort to try and understand, to feel what they are telling us. Perhaps we can attempt to visualize the situation.
It takes effort and concentration to listen properly to each word, instead of simply nodding and grunting, letting our minds drift to other things as we hold the phone to our ear.
Let’s pray for aid – for ourselves as much as for our loved ones.
Let’s be eager to admit we do not and cannot understand fully, yet are willing to try. This takes humility. And perhaps when all is said and done, understanding is less important than love.
Perhaps we don’t have to understand completely in order to sympathize and offer compassion.
Perhaps it is enough to pray and to try.
As we watch from far away we can feel left out.
The truth is, we are left out.
We used to be entwined with our loved ones’ lives, involved in their daily struggles, and when we move away this ends.
We will miss out on things – events, details, facts, updates, and reports. Information is always lost in communication. We will be excluded from their misery and also from their triumphs.
We cannot weep and we cannot celebrate — and others can.
What should we do?
Our value is not in how useful we are, how involved we are. A non-watcher is no less important than a watcher.
A remote watcher is no less valuable than a close watcher. We are what we are. Let’s embrace every situation as a means to honor God and love one another.
Let’s pray continually for contentment.
Watching remotely leaves us feeling extremely helpless.
After all, we are doing a lot less for them than we previously did.
We are receiving reports and updates, yet are left little room to respond. Watching from a distance becomes more ‘one way’, and this is difficult.
It can leave us feeling useless and this can result in guilt. We may feel like we are failing in our role as a friend, mother, or brother.
Our loved one’s illness can seem even more depressing – because we often hear the bad news more frequently than the tiny and perhaps unnoticed victories.
What should we do?
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that watching by itself doesn’t save anyone.
We cannot change the situation; our role is not to rectify it. God alone can do that, and He is still working in our loved one’s life, regardless of whether we are present or not. Let’s turn to Him in prayer and faith as the needy, helpless people that we are.
It is all in His hands.
Should we watch from a distance?
It’s a difficult choice to make.
Watching from afar is a continual series of decisions.
Will I ring them this evening even though I’m exhausted from work? Does it really matter if I text them or not this morning? I need a break; perhaps I can go another month without visiting.
There are no right or wrong answers – but we all know what love looks like.
What’s important is that we do not go into remote watching full of misplaced expectations.
Instead, let’s enter the situation prepared to struggle, prepared to sacrifice, prepared to be lonely, and prepared for victory.
*First published at calledtowatch.com. **Republished with permission.
Emily J. Maurits
Chronic Joy® Contributing Writer
After working for several years in the public health sector, Emily is now studying theology. She believes we are all called to love suffering people, because that's what Jesus did. She is passionate about equipping and encouraging others to do just that, and founded www.calledtowatch.com for the family and friends of those with chronic illnesses. As well as uncovering God's presence in the chaos of life, she enjoys reading, running, and writing. Check out her memoir, Two Sisters & a Brain Tumour.
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