Friends accuse me of being a perfectionist, an idealist and a struggler. I confess on all counts. I expect things to make sense. When ideas and events don't fit together in meaningful ways, I struggle to make them fit. Fortunately, I'm not alone. Nurses have struggled—independently for untold years and corporately as Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF) for more than thirty-five years—to make their faith and nursing fit. Two and a half years ago, NCF invited me to develop and edit a new journal devoted to integrating Christian faith and nursing. Now I am privileged to inaugurate the Journal of Christian Nursing. To do that, I offer my view of JCN's mission and a synopsis of its features.
JCN's mission is to help nurses perceive spiritual truth, grow in spiritual life and help others to do the same. That's a unique and tall order. Where do we find spiritual truth and life? Since our sources are specific and rather different from sources we commonly turn to in nursing, I want to spell them out.
In making a nursing assessment, we rely heavily on reason and experience. We also learn to respect a form of truth called objective data—information based almost exclusively on our senses, assisted enormously by instruments like thermometers, stethoscopes and cardiac monitors. Spiritual truth is of another order. Our senses cannot uncover it. Neither can we rely on our experience or completely trust our reason.
For example, a man awaiting surgery once asked me pointedly, “Will God heal my cancer? If not, what good is he?” This patient's view was that God is useless unless his function is to manipulate undesirable circumstances. Distraught and angry, with good reason, he wanted to dictate God's role based on his own feelings. My feelings weren't much different. After seven years of nursing, I hated suffering with a passion. Every empathic nerve in my body wanted to react in chorus with his outrage.
But faith said, No, this is not what God is about. If I had calculated and given a direct response to my patient's question, it would have been this: God is able to deliver you from cancer, but even if he does not, he will walk with you through it. I had no sensory data on which to base that evaluation. Nor could I look at the man's condition or my experience and expect to understand God. I knew God was present, that he was in control and that he loved this man-regardless of all appearances to the contrary.
Such paradoxical affirmations can come from only one source: God. Who could believe them otherwise? Who could proclaim or find love and comfort in the face of rampant pain and disease, except through the revelation and power of God? And who can bring life to those who are dying—physically or spiritually—except the one who is the way, the truth and the life?
As we seek spiritual truth and life in the Journal of Christian Nursing, we will look where God has revealed them: in his Son Jesus and in his written Word, the Bible, which testifies to Jesus. Therefore, besides professional appropriateness and quality, a primary criterion in evaluating manuscripts for publication will be compatibility with a Christian statement of faith.
Thoughtful people who agree on essential beliefs, nevertheless find themselves debating a variety of issues which require interpretation. JCN readers and writers should expect the same.
Expect a variety of views especially in the Case Study, a nurse's dilemma and other people's responses to it. Other Angles will feature experiences and viewpoints of non-nurses—patients, chaplains, doctors or anyone else whose point of view may be helpful to nurses. Also anticipate diverse views in Speaking Out, the guest editorial; in this Editorial spot; and in Letters which you will write in response to these views or other articles.
Spiritual Care articles will relate to assessing and meeting spiritual needs or to teaching spiritual care. People will focus on individuals usually nurses—who creatively incorporate spiritual dimensions into their work. Living and Learning will show how God has helped nurses deal with personal problems like crisis, temptation, child abuse, and alcoholism.
Resources will review books, films and other materials and print abstracts of theses, dissertations and studies relating Christianity and nursing. Selected conferences, seminars and workshops will be described in the Calendar with dates, CE details and where to write for more information. Hopefully these events will bring us together in person even as JCN brings us together in dialog.
Therefore, let us come together, for our Lord has promised: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Let us gather together in faith, bringing our doubts and our fears. Let us come with open minds seeking truth and with open hearts desiring life for ourselves and others.—RC