Saturday, October 24, 2009

No One is Good, Not Even One.

In my Senior Sem class at EMU, we have been reading Henri Nouwen's "Turn My Mouring Into Dancing". Nouwen, in the book, says,

"Many things we think we do for others are in fact the expressions of our drive to discover our identity in the praise of others."

We were asked to respond, then, to this question:

How has this been true or untrue in your life? How does Christian culture and drive to service affect this?

I will freely admit that I often thread the praise or lack thereof into the tapestry of my identity. Who does not enjoy a word that builds confidence in what the body or mind can accomplish? Who does not fall into doubt when praise is few and far between? We crave affirmation in what we can do.
In the Christian culture, I think there is a definite personal and corporate struggle of where to derive our value. Value can be accumulated by what we put our hands to – acts done by our own strength. Growing up in this Christian culture of expected service, I often did very “good” things for people through various church activities. In fact, I think this ingrained idea of “self-sacrifice” and service contributed a lot to the decision I made to pursue nursing. This decision in and of itself is not bad. But the motivations behind my actions in the nursing field (or just in general) can often be quite self-righteous and self-serving. I won’t lie; it feels quite good to be affirmed by patients or nursing staff or peers. But in the end, my own abilities to “help” will always fall short. I cannot bank my identity in others’ approval.

The second alternative for value has nothing to do with our physical capabilities. Instead, our value is discovered through the recognition of the “Potter’s” hands by which we were uniquely formed. In this frame of understanding, we are used instead of being in control - the vessels instead of the Potters. As Nouwen frames it, you are “free from the need to prove yourself and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it (p.73).”

Once, my Dad framed this idea in a way that was really helpful for me. I paraphrase his words:

God is sensitive to our hearts and our needs. The daily practice of being in His presence and working through my heart’s intentions and condition helps me to, in turn, be sensitive to His heart. (Equally present to God as He is to us). I also understand that God is sensitive not only to my needs, but also to those around me. So, by being sensitive to God, who is in touch with all people’s needs, I can be a vessel to meet those needs. And it’s not by my own ability then, that people’s needs are met… it’s by God’s working through me.

So, in conclusion, I am humbled to know that I’m not really all that altruistic most days. But it means I can recognize it and depend on God’s grace to shape my ever-self-focused tendencies. PTL.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bitter Pills

As I pass her room, her head is down on the table. I ask her if she is feeling alright. She shrugs her shoulders and says, "I just feel down."

This lady has been admitted for fractures after taking a tumble in her yard. Last evening, she apparently experienced a great deal of pain - "enough where I could just scream." She feels powerless and frustrated at her abrupt loss of mobility and independence.

"I suppose I just need to swallow my pride, like they told me," she says, still shaking her head in disbelief. It is a bitter pill to swallow, harder than any of the real pills I have given her to swallow.

There is no quick fix for pride. Nothing will magically catapult us over hard work, over the realities of shortcomings. There is no pill that magically restructures our motivations, thoughts, routines, and relationships.

I kneel to her level and encourage her as best as I know how, knowing all along that I could just as easily be taking my own advice.

Give yourself grace. Yes, it is difficult to acknowledge your weakness, brokenness, and inability to care for yourself. But, accepting help does not rob you of freedom or value. Take it slow; give yourself time. You are healing. Give yourself grace.


"When you hold lightly these dreams and fears, you can be open to recieve every day as a new fay and to live your life as a unique expression of God's love for humankind." -Henri Nouwen

Friday, October 2, 2009

Walking out my front door this morning, I am greeted by this incredible display of God's creativity, masterfulness, and sheer beauty...

I love living in the Shenandoah Valley!