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.
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.