Not Yours, but You

There is an aspect of nursing that I thought would come so much more naturally than it does. The listening ear. The emotional support and connection. I didn’t think it would be so hard. My patient came to us in great discomfort, inconsolable. The parents were tearful, scared, exhausted. I introduced myself to them as gently as I could, and then I lost my words. So I jumped into my tasks of getting the patient admitted into the unit, settled, charted. The whole time, I felt the quiet weight of the parents’ emotions filling the room beyond what it could contain. I wanted to say something, ask something, but I had no words. Performing the tasks was so much easier than making the efforts to connect.

This morning, I was reading the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, and this short phrase jumped out at me.

…for I do not seek yours, but you.

Oh.

My.

This is me:

I seek Yours, God, less often than I seek You.

I seek others’ (fill in the blank), less often than I actually seek others.

And in return, I give my (fill in the blank) more easily and more often than I give me.

Rankin Wilbourne recently preached a powerful sermon, “Lord of the Whips,” in which he pointed out that in our times of suffering, when we seek to find comfort in the reasons why God does certain things, we will be then tempted to place our hope in those reasons rather than in God Himself. This is true of me. The more I seek and find comfort in what is His – the earth and all its fullness, His blessings, His gifts, His explanations, even His comfort (just for the sake of comfort), the less I will seek and treasure Him. That’s why I still doubt and question Him when He withholds what is His from me. It’s so hard for me to separate Him from what He gives. What He gives is always a reflection of Who He is. But they are not equal. His gifts are not always required to prove Who He is. When I don’t get this, I am prone to turn my back on Him, when I just want His things and cannot have them.

When we settle for the mere exchange of things, this is dead religion. God, I’ll give You my time, my service, my good behavior, my things. And I think that You ought to give me Your things, dare I say, Your expected behavior, in exchange. We become frustrated when this exchange doesn’t “work”, when God doesn’t seem to keep up His end of the bargain. As if this is all He ever wanted from us. As if He just wanted things from us, without us.

No. He doesn’t just want things from us. He wants to be with us, and us with Him.

This holds true in my relationships with people. The more I seek what other people can give me – validation, recognition, praise, respect, material things – the less I even seek to know, much less love, them for who they actually are. And concerning my own openness, or lack thereof to others, my experiences in nursing, in friendships, in marriage, all reveal to me how hard it can be for me to give of my actual self. To be quite honest, I’m not even sure what that actually fully looks like. I’m much better at just giving my things.

Curiously, the context of Paul writing that short but profound phrase to the Corinthians comes after he is broken of his legalistic, Pharisaical spirit; redeemed and esteemed in Christ; and then deeply broken again by the loving all-sufficiency of Christ. The ongoing work of God’s breaking in our lives is so that we can say,

Not yours, but you.

Not mine, but me.

A Quiet Peace: guest blog post

Adam McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church, has been posting a blog series on ‘A Quiet Advent.’ Each week, his blog series has covered a quiet hope, a quiet love, a quiet joy, and in this final week of advent, a quiet peace. I was given the opportunity to write a guest blog post for this week, which I find somewhat ironic given that my external circumstances have felt anything but peaceful. Which, I suppose, is the point of my blog post.

You can find the blog post here. Thanks for reading!

close enough to change

He could not speak. His disease process barely allowed him to move any longer. But he was fully present, and he would smack his lips to get my attention. He could use his eyes and a slight nod or shake of the head to communicate his needs and desires. He was fully present, a little boy who had to face the span of life, the briefest childhood, and thoughts of death within too small a number of years. When his mom would leave the room, he would smack his lips. I looked up from my charting. His eyes would dart to the empty chair next to his bed. “You want me to come sit with you for awhile?” His head nodded yes. “You want to watch a movie?” A nod. “Toy Story 3?” Another nod. I walked over, took the seat next to him, and took his hand. “Alright buddy, let’s see what Woody is up to.” The movie started, and a big scene came on. The train was about to go over the cliff, and Woody was trying desperately to stop it in time. My little friend’s lips would smack. I looked over at him, and he was wide-eyed, looking at me, then looking up at the screen, as if to say, “Check out this scene!!” The train went over the cliff with a crash. A brief moment of silence. I looked at my friend, and his eyes were wide with anticipation. He smacked his lips again, looked up at the TV screen and slightly jerked his head up so that I’d look too and not miss the next scene. And suddenly Buzz Lightyear appears, train triumphantly lifted over his head. Buzz has saved the day! I look at my friend and we both have victory in our eyes. “Whoaaaa!! That was SO cool!!” My friend has a little smile, eyes still wide, and we share an exchange of glances celebrating a brief but precious moment when all is ok with the world again.

This is the first time in my young nursing career that I’ve asked to be a primary nurse for a patient, meaning that every time I go into work, I will be able to be this little guy’s nurse for as long as he is with us. The goal is to provide greater consistency of care for the patient, and hopefully as a result, greater quality of care.

I think, however, that it has to do with more than just having someone who is more familiar with his communication style and his preferences. Because I feel myself changing in deeper ways, in the ways I think about my patient. When patient assignments change after a shift or two, it is inherently easier to be less emotionally attached, less involved with the patients. Now that I am a primary nurse for this sweet boy, I find myself not only taking a stronger sense of ownership for him, but I find myself caring more deeply for him and for his family. I find myself thinking more about his journey, feeling more of his struggles and celebrating more of his joys. I go on that train ride with him to the edge of the cliff, and hope with him that maybe Buzz Lightyear will show up and bring some relief again to the fears.

When I asked our charge nurse if she could help arrange for me to be a primary for this patient, I told her, “I think he has so much potential to break my heart.” Nursing is a profession full of tensions and constant battles for balance. Not wanting to get too close or too emotionally involved to a point where it becomes unhealthy, yet wanting so deeply to be authentic, open, human in the best sense of the word, and a reflection of the heart of Christ in what I do as a nurse. Christ did not stay aloof. He got close enough to us to be broken so that love and healing could flow in ways that a careful distance would not otherwise allow.

God, grant me courage to get close enough to change, to be willing to be broken, to become more like You… so that my sweet little patient might know that You are Emmanuel, You are God with us.