Lean In to Love

A couple weeks ago at Thrive Church, Judah shared a timely message the day before MLK day and five days before the inauguration of, let’s all admit it, a controversial U.S. president.

It was a great message. I was silently beaming with pride that the leader of my church dared to approach such a difficult topic. I’m not bragging, honestly. It was just such a breath of fresh air to have a local church break the silence in a culture grasping for truth.

If you’d like to take a peek, click here:
Focus: Differences (40 mins)
The Cliffnotes (If you don’t have time to watch the message, skim through these before reading on)

The next day, I went to work and took care of my patients as I always [try] to–with excellence and patience.

Trust me, I’m not a perfect nurse, there are some personalities that suck the life out of me and those who just outright piss me off. “No sir, using your incentive spirometer (taking deep breaths) is not severely exerting, and it sure as heck doesn’t substitute for getting your a** out of bed and WALKING.” All thoughts inside my head of course.  First world nursing is…frustrating sometimes. There have been several moments I’ve repeated over and over to myself, “I can’t. I just can’t right now. I can’t deal. I can’t do this.” And then when I truly feel like I’m at the end of myself, “Jesus help me.”

If I’ve learned anything in this last year, it’s that I need to lay down my pride and acknowledge a LOT sooner that I’m out of my depth, out of control, and “at my extremity” as Rees Howells would say. Check out the story of his spirit led life here:
The Man, The Legend
The Book

All that to say, I’m far from perfect and still learning! But I know God created a masterpiece in me. He’s just not done yet.

I would never want you to think my life is success upon success and that every patient adores me, because it’s simply not true. I rub some people the wrong way. I wish I didn’t, but it happens. So now that I’ve laid the foundation and given my personal disclaimer of imperfection, I want to share a particular victory in hopes that it will encourage you.

Monday morning after learning several key points from Judah’s message, I walked into work. One of my patients (I’ll have to limit details for privacy’s sake) was Muslim. It’s not like this was a first for me, but on this day it gave me pause as I sought to apply what I had just heard–had I actually learned anything?

The rooms on my floor are all private, with a wide, cushioned bench by the window for a family member to sleep overnight if they choose to. When I walked in to introduce myself to my patient, his previously sleeping wife sat up from the bench and I saw her beautiful hijab. I have nothing against head coverings. In fact, I think they are often lovely and elegant, even regal. One of my friends, who I met on the Africa Mercy, wraps her hair several times a week and I just love it. But for some reason, on this occasion, my uniform of scrubs with a long-sleeve shirt underneath suddenly felt revealing and immodest. “Is she judging me? Is she watching to make sure this promiscuous nurse doesn’t try anything on her husband?” Again, all thoughts inside my head. Illogical? Definitely. But I think there is something in the human makeup that drives us, rashly, to the conclusion that someone else’s different choices or beliefs is an assault on our own. As if her choice to cover her hair was a declaration that my choice to NOT cover is wrong–because it is different.  How could we both be right? “She must be looking down on me”, I thought. “And her husband too. Why would he respect the instruction of a nurse who is obviously in the wrong?”

Maybe it was my lack of caffeine at that hour, but I assure you those thoughts really did fly through my head in short order. I’d like to say that I stopped myself and thought, “Refuse to stereotype people, Kirsten.” I didn’t. At least not right away. The cool thing about professionalism and nursing is that regardless of the appearance, beliefs, or personality of our patients, our charge to give them the best possible care is the same. So really, I can’t walk away from differences–even if I wanted to. I determined to give them such great care that they’d never guess the stream-of-consciousness thoughts I’d just had.

Throughout the day, I did my level best to be a helpful, encouraging, and caring nurse. I gave them both broad, genuine smiles whenever I walked into the room. I took the time to listen and to explain. When the doctors decided to discharge the patient, I got the paperwork together as soon as I could on that busy day and again, took my time to teach until I was sure they understood all the discharge instructions. I wish I had more time to ask about their lives or their family, but I only got as far as asking his occupation.

When they were all packed up and ready to go, I was with another patient and they called me to their room. And of course I answered cheerfully–not. “What do they want now?” I thought. “What did I forget? I thought I remembered everything!” When I finally got out of the other patient’s room and walked into theirs–hoping desperately there wasn’t an issue with their discharge–they greeted me with the same broad smiles we’d exchanged throughout the day and said, “We just want to thank you so much for taking such good care. You were very good. Many blessings of God on you.” They even offered me a gift as they  wheeled out of there. Like, what?! I had tears in my eyes as I shook their hands and blessed them back. There was such warmth and love in that room. “I can’t. I can’t even. I can’t do this.” You know what I “can’t”? I can’t express to you how amazing that moment was.

Walk toward people who are different.
Don’t stereotype.
Don’t assume what they’re thinking.
Be curious.
Seek to understand.

…because God cares about how much we love those who are different from us.

Leave behind the oppression, fear, or stereotypes of the past. Even if that “past” was only minutes before. Press forward. Lean in to love.

Philippians 3:12-16
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…