Holy Week reminds us of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. While many of us have been sacrificing or stripping things away this season, as a way to walk more closely with God, sometimes those sacrifices are not welcome or our choice. Where is God in the midst of our unwilling and unplanned sacrifices?
My realization of God’s presence in the midst of unplanned sacrifices in my life was slow in developing. I had chosen to study nursing in college and loved labor and delivery. Upon graduation when I applied for positions in labor and delivery, I was saddened to find there were none available due to the birth rate being so low. I accepted that and turned to my second favorite - emergency room. There were no openings in any of the area hospitals in the emergency rooms either. So two doors closed. I turned to intensive care. After interviewing, I accepted a position at the Huntington Hospital Intensive Care. As I was completing the paperwork the director stopped at one and said, ‘We can’t hire you because you have herniated discs in your back.’ Surprised I responded that that would not get in the way of my work. It was before the Americans with Disabilities Act and I was turned away.
I persisted and went to Whittier Presbyterian Hospital where I was thrilled to find the first state of the art ICU with all patients in glass rooms surrounding a central nurses’ station to allow for ongoing monitoring of the patients. I met the staff and appreciated them so I signed the contract and excitedly went home to tell my husband. When I told him I’d start Tuesday night he interrupted saying, ‘Night shift?’ I told him it was ok, that they had a guard that would walk me to my car. He responded that that would not stop a bullet. It was at the height of gang activity in Whittier.
I had eliminated the possibility of the other area hospitals due to poor Nurse/Patient ratios that I didn’t consider safe. I was very down and felt at a loss without direction. After a couple weeks my husband came home from teaching math and drama at the junior high and said his school district was looking for a nurse. Oh great! That’s what I want to be... a school nurse, putting on Band-Aids. He encouraged me to just go see about it. So I went over in shorts and flip-flops showing what I thought of the position. I met the director of Health Services, a woman with a lovely British accent. When she learned that I really wanted to work in labor and delivery she started telling me of her experiences in London as a midwife during the war.
As she wove stories of her experiences and her dreams for what we could do for the children in the district whose families had no health care I started thinking I could sacrifice working at the hospital to help with these children in El Monte. We could take a WW II trailer she’d procured and let the children paint it and we could equip it with dental chairs and equipment for the children to get dental care and take it to each school because so many of the families didn’t have transportation. We could arrange for the mothers to get exams at the schools at night. I was beginning to see God offering me a job with much greater connection to my heart. I learned, though it had been a sacrifice that I still got to do clinical nursing because God sent me back to school (again dragging my feet) to become a nurse practitioner and have my own clinic. So in addition to clinical nursing I got to do a lot of social work and teaching and advocacy for the children and families.
When it was suggested that I go back to school for marriage and family therapy program by my close friend I thought she was crazy. By now my husband and I had 2 girls, I was working, co- leading a girl scout troop and my husband and I were leading the church youth program.
She simply asked if I would pray about it. ‘Yes’, I would. I heard God say to go. I thought it was simply to supplement my public health work because I certainly could use the skills.
This work was scarier to me than any of the nursing I had done. These were people’s lives... but without having all the tools and medications and equipment of nursing. I had nothing - except God. It threw me onto the lap of God in complete dependence. And to my amazement I experienced God coming through for me time and time again. The Holy Spirit (Counselor) is right here with me...Really! My faith started to grow exponentially. As my relationship grew with Jesus and trust increased, I found myself walking in a joy I hadn’t known before.
On a new level of surrender, I again told God how fully dependent I was and that I would trust.
I would say ‘Yes’ to what I was asked and if it wasn’t God’s will for me that it would be blocked. This has led me down paths I never could have imagined such as serving as a psychotherapist in weekend Intensive Workshops throughout the country and being continually awestruck seeing God work so powerfully in people’s lives in a short amount of time.
Going back to school to become a nurse practitioner and a psychotherapist were sacrifices I didn’t choose but that God meant for me and God was there with me through it all. Because of this I have been incredibly blessed to get to serve in so many ways. Truly it is more blessed to give than to receive - to serve than to be served.
I invite you to risk saying ‘Yes’ to God and to find our God so trustworthy and faithful to be there with you.
COLLECT OF THE DAY
Be gracious to your people, we entreat you, O Lord, that they, repenting day by day of the things that displease you, may be more and more filled with love of you and of your commandments; and, being supported by your grace in this life, may come to the full enjoyment of eternal life in you everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
LISTEN TO "PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS"
Click below to listen to Sarah McLachlan's version of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
LISTEN TO RICHARD ROHR ON ST. FRANCIS, FAITH, AND HELL
Click below to listen to Richard Rohr reflect on St. Francis, faith, and Hell.
Click on the link below to purchase today's suggested read: Brother Francis of Assisi by Tomi dePaola.