When our caring love wears thin
Source: Singing the Faith: 622
Words: Marjorie Dobson
Music: “Charterhouse (Cooper)” by Alexander Cooper
Ideas for use
This text takes us into an area of personal concern and experience rarely touched upon, at least so explicitly, in other hymns. It might be felt suitable for a service remembering those who have died in recent months; or for a service in which those who care, either as individuals or from within the caring professions, are the focus for reflection. Marjorie Dobson indicates, in her collection Multi-coloured Maze (2004: Stainer and Bell), that the last verse of the hymn may be omitted if felt to be inappropriate to the occasion.
Though specific to the experience of carers, Marjorie’s words seem to inhabit the same emotional world of struggle, fear and pain found in Jesus’ prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane, especially as re-told in the Gospel of Matthew 26: 36-54. They also find an echoing response in Jan Berry’s hymn of healing, Deep in the darkness a starlight is gleaming (StF 635)
You may find it helpful to precede the singing of the hymn with Marjorie’s prayer:
your heart goes out to those who suffer
and we must reach out too.
But it is not an easy thing to get alongside someone
and feel their suffering with them.
It takes endless patience and time and energy
and we cannot always sustain the effort.
Keep us loving beyond the limits that we believe are possible,
for your care goes further than we can we ever imagine
into the darkest places of suffering, grief and despair.
(© Copyright 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd, 23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ, www.stainer.co.uk. Reproduced by permission from Multi-coloured Maze, For any further reproduction, please apply in advance to Stainer & Bell Ltd.)
This text appears in Marjorie’s collection Multi-coloured Maze with the description “a hymn for carers”.
She writes of those who care for relatives or friends out of duty or a love that leaves no other option. “Even the most dedicated of carers have their own needs too, and the stress and strain of loving concern can be so overwhelming that it leads to resentment and frustration.” There is an inner turmoil also, Marjorie observes, as we struggle to understand or balance how we should feel about a loved one’s prolonged illness or that final release both for patient and carer.
It is the kind of situation that all of us will experience in one way or another during the course of our lives. David Booth wrote to StF+ with this observation about Marjorie’s hymn:
“It brings tears from congregations and… I picture a spouse with terminal cancer and that mixture of relief that suffering has ended and [the sense that] ‘I can have my life back’, but at the same time loss and guilt.”
Reflecting more recently on these words, Marjorie herself writes: “In the last few years I’ve become a carer myself… Although my text was based more on other people’s experience, I now know from my own the truth of the words I’d written.”