For the first twenty-four hours after my surgery, I was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. My nurse, a young woman of Asian descent, spent every waking moment by my bedside caring for me. I was helpless; all I could do was ask for pain medicine or request some ice chips to keep my mouth watered. Upon every request, this nurse was prompt in caring for my needs and providing me with comfort.
For the following four days, I was in my own private room. Every morning and evening the nurses would changes shifts and a new staff of nursing soldiers would take command. The men and woman who were assigned to my care worked tirelessly to give me medicine, explain my symptoms, adjust my bed, prop my pillow, help me to bathe and even sit around and have conversation with me.
After a few days of this tender care and service, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. “This is exactly how Jesus has instructed his followers to care for one another and for the world.”
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)
I began to realize that what I was experiencing was more than just people doing their job; it was a model of Christian service at its finest! These nurses, regardless of their creed or religion were demonstrating in selfless action what it truly means to live like a Christian in a world filled with so much hurt, pain, suffering and need.
As I came to this understanding, I started to become more inquisitive of my tending helpers. I asked them how they decided to become a nurse and what they enjoyed about their profession. The majority of these nurses had a story – a close family member became ill or died and they decided to become a nurse. Others just had an innate sense and calling to nursing at a young age or as a second career.
Upon returning home, my curiosity about the nursing profession continued. I just knew deep down within that this caring profession must have a Christian origin at its roots. My intuition was right. The Greek and Roman cultures of the first century had little regard for the sick, weak and dying. Christians on the other hand were noted for their exceeding love and care for the sick, regardless of the sick person’s belief system or social status. Many of these early Christians risked their lives by being in the presence of contagiously sick people and eventually died.1
One of the most famous nurses of all time is Florence Nightingale, now known as the founder of modern nursing.2 Theodor Fliedner, a Lutheran pastor in Kaiserswerth, Germany developed a hospital with a hundred beds and trained primarily peasant woman to be nurses, known as deaconesses. Nightingale went to observe these practices and decided to devote her life to the nursing profession.3
"The Christian spirit of Fliedner and the deaconesses greatly impressed her. Upon returning home to England, where her well-to-do parents expressed their disgust with her visit to Kaiserswerth and her nursing desires, she reported feeling 'so brave as if nothing could vex me again.'”4
Just as Nightingale was inspired by the Christian service of Fliedner and his deaconesses, so was I inspired by the wonderful care and attention of the nurses who served me in my weakest moment. So with great appreciation and gratitude, I just want to thank Gary, Deborah, Christina, Craig, Susan, Ramona, Kayla and all of the nursing assistants at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center who took care of me. You not only helped me in the healing process, you have inspired me to be a better servant of God. Thank you!
May we all find inspiration from the work of these nurses to serve the world in whatever context the Lord has placed us. Amen.
1. How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin J Schmidt, 152-153.
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Nightingale, accessed October 1, 2014
3. How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin J Schmidt, 163.
4. Ibid., 163.