I have been re-reading Marilynne Robinson's luminous novel Gilead recently preparatory both to teaching it to my daughter and, hopefully, to writing a review of it for The Christendom Review. I shall not try to write that review here and now. I highly recommend the book. (And I wish publicly to thank W4 reader Jeff Singer for the original recommendation.)
A comment by our reader The Masked Chicken below brought to mind something in Gilead. Here's Masked Chicken:
In cases where there is a demented relative, God is not asking the demented person a question, he is asking the care-giver a question: do you love this person enough to care for them for the rest of their life, regardless of the inconvenience to you? The demented person is a living question of love. Christ was pierced with a sword so that the thoughts of many might be revealed. The demented person is Christ pierced with a sword among us. How we treat them reveals the thought of so many in the modern world.
Here is Robinson, the words coming in the book from her character John Ames:
This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.
While the two quotations are about different specific circumstances, the overarching point is very much the same.
If you're looking for a book to read this weekend, you could do much worse than to check out Gilead at the library, take up, and read.