Identity

Sunday, November 18, 2018


It was June. Not even one month after graduating as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and I was practically on my tippy toes, just waiting and hoping to help others with any kind of medical need they might have. I would even go so far as to pray that if there had to be an accident in the day that I would be the first to see it on my drive home. I longed to put my first aid training to use, as we didn’t have a plethora of emergency situations at the assisted living facility I worked at.

That summer I temporarily moved to Colorado. During my first week of school, we had a lecture on campus safety and were asked if anyone had medical training, and I was so thrilled to raise my hand into the air! Yes! Yes! Yes! I am happy to help with absolutely anything medical! I practically had to bite my lip to keep from saying it aloud.

I kept my eyes open, looking for any opportunities to serve others in this capacity, but at first, nothing, as far as I was aware, had come up. I sat down outside the 300 dorms and opened up the assigned book for that week. As I flipped to the page where I had left off, I glanced up at my water bottle; it had a medical symbol on it with my name below. It was like there were ants in my pants or something. No one had punctured an artery, taken a tumble on the sidewalk, or fallen unconscious into the campus lake, which was good. But at the same time, what’s a passionate CNA girl to do?!

At last, a month later something had { finally } come up. All 105 or so of us students were having an evening of fellowship at a local park. Some were playing volleyball or ultimate frisbee, while others were just enjoying talking with one another. Being the stellarly athletic type that I am, I avoided the competitive games and sat down in the grass, picking up a conversation with several ladies who I hoped to get to know better. Suddenly one of the girls said, “Cassidy! Someone’s down over there! Can you go help?” My back had been turned to the frisbee game in which a guy had landed wrong on his ankle.

Quickly, I jumped up, feeling elated and trying to recall what I had learned about sprained joints. Only a few feet away from the scene, I looked over to see a staff member also running in that direction. She said to me, in a gracious tone of voice: “Why don’t you go back and sit down?”

What????

It felt like one of those slow-motion moments. “Oh ok.” I said, feeling my heart drop. With disappointment, I turned around and went back to the same spot where I had previously been seated.

That evening was a good one for my soul; it was a reminder that truly serving others is so not about me. If I am not needed, then it may be best to stay out of the way. There had been an RN involved on the scene of the sprained ankle, and plenty of other individuals nearby who could help.

A few weeks later while I did my chore in the Lakehouse, I spotted a friend. I started a conversation with the lady coordinating volunteers for the upcoming 5K and mentioned that if they happened to need any medical help, I would be thrilled to provide any care I was able to. I also passed along the name of a classmate who was an LPN, who I was certain would be just as excited about this opportunity as I was; maybe we could work together!

Eventually it was 3:30pm.

Internet hours…. I refreshed my email several times, thinking about how amazing it would be to look over the volunteer assignments. I pictured pulling my hair back and placing my pink stethoscope over my shoulders. I could bring my first aid kit, pulse oximeter, and purple sphygmometer; each of which were sitting sadly on the top shelf in my dorm room, only used on occasion or when I pestered someone about taking their vital signs. I didn’t want to just ask others if I could practice taking their blood pressure anymore, I wanted to be there answering the call when someone pulled a muscle, broke a leg, or fainted of heat exhaustion.

A few days later, a subject line in my email rekindled all the excitement. “Volunteer Assignments For 5K.” I scrolled through the list, urgently looking for the column of “Nurse/First Aid.” I glanced at my phone with utter thrill; I was assigned to be the 5K first aid provider!!! And my LPN friend was going to be working with me; it seemed like the most exciting day ever! I jumped out of my chair and told my excitement to a nearby friend. The 14th of July could not arrive fast enough!


As I prepared for the day, I had to restrain myself from shrieking for joy; I put my student ID on the same way I had worn my medical ID during clinicals. Even if no one would get hurt that morning, just the idea of being available to meet the needs of others had me about jumping up and down. I threw all my medical supplies into my backpack and headed out the door.

When I got there, the volunteer coordinator needed to speak with me. It turned out that one of the other people involved in coordinating the 5K had already arranged for three other people to provide medical care for the day. A nurse's station had been arranged with an RN, EMT, and first responder.

Wondering how it could be that another medical opportunity had fallen through, I walked over to my LPN friend to let her know that we would not be needed at the nurses station that morning. She told me she was relieved; she had been willing to help if there was a great need, but hoped to instead participate in the 5K. I understood her relief since she was such a hard working nurse, but I did not share in her relief… I still felt restless to help others.

A few days later, I lost my water bottle with the medical sign on it. It was like everything I used to identify myself as a medical professional was nonexistent.

Jesus was, in a way, speaking to me. I was finding the whole of my identity in medical care.

The position of my soul is not in nursing, CNA-ing, blood drawing, first-aid administering, CPR-giving Cassidy. My position is in Christ, and I was getting a crash course in it. I had been living in the clouds, with “Oh for the day when I’m finally a nurse” type thoughts dominating my heart and mind. I had no grid for any other kind of future than one of charting, injecting, observing, and compassionately caring nursing.

I think it’s a common phenomenon of girls of the 21st century to misplace their identity. We somehow come to a conclusion that we have to be identified with something, be that good grades, a thriving career, a certain interest well pursued, a boyfriend nearby, or something else, whatever it may be.

Despite what our culture daily attempts to instill in us, our identity is not in our personality, our accomplishments, our abilities, or our passions; our identity is in Christ alone. (May He ever be out all-consuming passion!)

Here I am, over a year later, looking back with a smile. I now work in the emergency department and get to do many of the things I was dreaming of. The other day I administered over 91 compressions to one patient. My weekly life includes obtaining and charting vital signs, ambulating patients, assisting in high acuity traumas, taking EKGs, drawing blood, and sometimes praying with patients at their lowest point. There are moments I about squeal for joy! But there are also moments I long to go home.

Getting to help people in emergent and traumatic moments of their lives often thrills my soul, but it does not satisfy me completely.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1-2).

I wasn’t created for myself. I was not made to follow my heart and dreams. (Prov. 4:23).

I was put into existence for the glory, honor, and praise of Jesus Christ. (Is. 43:1-7, Eph. 3:20-21).

That does not mean the vision He has planted in my heart--as I offer it up to Him in full surrender--has no eternal value, but it is not my purpose for existing on this earth.

God did not create me merely to chase whims, hopes, and wishes.


I was made to know the very Source of life Himself.

The essence of who I am, even in this fallen world, cries out His praise. "All my bones shall say, 'O Lord, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him" (Ps. 35:10a). My fulfillment cannot be found in a job, human being, life setting, or particular circumstances. I need something more than things and people; at the core of who I am, I long for the Author of Life.

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing...The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned" (Ps. 34:8-10,22).

Knowing the Most High is not a hobby or merely one segment of life. It is an all-consuming pursuit. As A.W. Tozer has said: "Too many persons try to make Jesus Christ a convenience. They reduce Him simply to a big friend who will help us when we are in trouble. This is not Biblical Christianity! Jesus Christ is Lord, and when an individual comes in repentance and faith, the truth flashes in. For the first time he finds himself saying, 'I will do the will of the Lord, even if I die for it." [1]

Putting Jesus first and claiming Him as my identity means death to self and living for Christ. "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1-3).

Living in Pursuit of a Heavenly Agenda

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain...Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:21a, 27a).

People who are without Jesus live in light of what is temporary; it's all they know to give themselves for. Flashing headlines like "Live your best life now" sum up the mainstream attitude. As citizens of heaven in a broken earth, may we display the loveliness of an existence surrendered unto the Alpha and Omega. Happily stepping into the mud and mess to share the all-important secret with all who will hear: Jesus is Lord.

Oswald Chambers has shared an important piece of advice on God's intent for His children:

"His purpose is not the development of  a person--His purpose is to make a person exactly like Himself, and the Son of God is characterized by self-expenditure. If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that really counts. God's purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us. Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measures it, but only by what God pours through us--and we cannot measure that at all [...] 'He who believed in me...out of his heart will flow rivers of Living Water'--and hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. Now is the time for us to break "the flask" of our lives, to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him. Our Lord is asking who of us will do it for Him?" [2]

Ultimately, my identity as a Christ follower is not about me. It's about the Savior who is worthy of my utmost and entire givenness.

Know that the unique way He has made you is for a purpose, yet the longer my eyes remain upon self, the less I can be used. If I spend my days worried if my gifts will be spent well, I am not seeing myself in perspective. I am not the story and I am not the main character. He has made me a part of His plan and Kingdom, but not so my name would be known, but so He will receive more glory, honor, and praise.

He is the One this is all about.

I was made uniquely for His glory because He is worthy of praise in a billion different ways.

Do I still love the emergency department and sometimes achingly long to give CPR? Yes. Yet, I must leave my desires in the hands of the One who created my heart and knows my every dream so intimately.

God is my Creator and He knows my purpose far, far better than I ever will. This means the best way I may accomplish the intentions He has for me is by obeying and yielding to Him. 

--
1. Tozer, A.W., and Gerald B. Smith. Mornings With Tozer . Moody Publishers, 2008, p. March 24
2. Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., 1992, p. September 2

Spurgeon Speaks to Patient Care

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


I spend a lot of time with patients these days....Some are simply the sweetest and others are harder to show love to. I sat to read some Spurgeon the other day, and was blown away by these encouragements:

“I venture to say that our Savior never taught us to confine our giving to the deserving. He would never have bestowed His grand gift of grace on any one of us had He carried out that rule. We cannot afford to cramp our charity into a sort of petty justice and sour our giving into a miniature court of law. When a man is suffering, let us pity him, however this suffering has come...[Jesus] came to the sinner, not with reproach but with restoration. Jesus saw his disease rather than his depravity and gave him pity instead of punishment. Our God is kind to the unthankful and to the evil; be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful...Let us imitate Him in this, and wherever there is pain and sorrow, let it be our joy to relieve it.”

 “Our Lord was at home amid this mercy, for here was room for His tender heart and powerful hand. He feasted His soul by doing good. Let us learn this lesson, dear friend, that in the times of our brightest joys we should remember the sorrowful and find a still higher joy in doing them good....blessed are they who, like the Lord Jesus, visit the sick and care for them.” [1]

It's probably fair to say that it's our human nature to ponder if our patient is worthy of our kindness. When fits are thrown, voices are raised, complaints are made, or a patient is just plain difficult in some other way, is it my delight to show them the boundless love of Jesus?

I have been working in the emergency department for nearly two months now, and a recurring theme seems to be: "You need to learn to lay down the law with patients who struggle to make good choices. Don't be too nice to them."

We certainly have to be cautious with patients who are violent or emotionally unstable, but we must also remember that we walk with the Lord Jesus at every moment when providing care. When He was so worthy of our everything, we spat in His face and disdained Him. Even so, "when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6).

The passage continues:

"It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! For if, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation" (Romans 5:7-11).

Jesus has done this incredible work of redemption. There is something wrong with my perspective if I am still looking at others with a measuring stick and saying, "If you do this, and don't do that, then I'll care about you and be kind." If such a standard had been held upon us by our Savior, redemption would be completely impossible and I would be forever stuck in my sin, on my way to an eternity of destruction and torment. That is what I deserve! It's what we all deserve! "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). And yet He did not allow my unworthiness to stop His grand plan of redemption. In the midst of my mess, He showed me mercy.

Our God is all wise, and He Himself was moved at a heart level for the broken. He didn't shut up His heart because, "I'd burn out if I took all that to heart" (He is all-sufficient, after all). He let the sadness, sickness, and brokenness others were experiencing affect Him:

"And a leper came to Him, imploring Him, and kneeling said to Him, 'If you will, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand and touched him and said to him, 'I will; be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean" (Mark 1:40-42).

The word there for "moved with pity" is splagchnizomai. Strong's defines this word: "[to] feel sympathy, to pity -- have (be moved with) compassion." [2] Splagchnizomai speaks of the seat of affections of the heart [3]; Jesus was not simply pondering head knowledge on the situation; He felt the depth of the need.

Whenever we feel tempted, as healthcare workers, to disconnect our emotions from our work for the sake of self-preservation, may we remember our Lord Jesus who wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus, to the point that the Jews who had been observing Him said: "See how [Jesus] loved [Lazarus]" (John 11:36).

May our work display the same; "See how Jesus has loved you." Because we know, as Elisabeth Elliot has said, "You are loved with an everlasting love; that's what the Bible says! And underneath are the everlasting arms" (Jer. 31:3, Deut. 33:27).

We have the opportunity to wrap the broken in hope or push them further into despair. By His grace, may we bear His light into the darkness sick people are facing. Jesus is the Light of the World, and He has placed us here--displaying His light--for such a time as this. May we feel compassion for the broken as our Savior does. May we stoop down into the mud with the dirty, listen with care and attentiveness to those who weep, advocate effectively for the confused, and--with every patient--be moved at a heart level; displaying the "splagchnizomai" of their Creator.

"Jesus, the Light of the World, caused His light and truth to dawn upon your heart, removing the veil and fog of unbelief that once blinded you to Him. He gave the light; He did the shining, and you found you could see God for who He truly is and love the Gospel for what it really is" (Kristen Wetherell). [4]

We know that hope is not merely a feeling or put together circumstances; Hope is a person named Jesus. And this Hope isn't bound to ease or situational peace; He is willing to rescue the lost and restore shattered souls.

"Wherever there is pain and sorrow, let it be our joy to relieve it" (Spurgeon).

--
(1) Spurgeon, Charles, and Lance Wubbles. Discovering the Power of Christ's Miracles. Emerald Books, 1995, p. 15,14
(2) Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, as found here.
(3) HELPS Word-studies, Copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.
(4) Wetherell, Kristen, and Sarah Walton. Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God's Purpose in Your Suffering. The Good Book Company, 2017, p. 19