Bible characters, ancient men and women whose lives are recorded in Scripture, can teach us a great deal for nursing today. In this JCN, Susan Salladay helps us learn from Peter and the other Apostles about dealing with opposition to our faith (pp. 102–108). Melinda Hermanns draws, in part, from the Apostle Paul's words to describe the experience of people living with Parkinson's disease (pp. 76–82). Pamala McCarver offers insight from biblical sisters Mary and Martha (pp. 85–87), giving nurses a lot to think about as we prepare for and go about our work.
I must admit I relate to Martha—hard worker, sees what needs to be done, not afraid to speak her mind, tell others what to do. In Luke 10:38 we learn the home Jesus frequented in Bethany, 2 miles from Jerusalem, was Martha's (Matthew 21:17; Luke 10:38–42; John 12:1–2). It appears she graciously opened her home to Jesus and his disciples when they needed a place to rest or a meal. (Imagine a bunch of men dropping in for dinner unannounced then staying to spend the night!) We observe Martha serving, showing hospitality, working to get a job done. As nurses, no matter what our area of practice, we are called to offer hospitality at a moment's notice, to be willing to take on unexpected work like welcoming new admissions, covering for a colleague, meeting with a distressed student.
I think one of the most amazing accounts of Martha is the story in John 11 of Lazarus, her brother, being raised from the dead. Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick, thinking Jesus would come and heal Lazarus. But Jesus delayed and Lazarus died. The sisters were devastated—at the loss of their brother and the lack of Jesus' response. Yet when Jesus finally comes, it is Martha who is willing to get up, leave the house, meet Jesus, and confront him: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21). She hangs on to her belief that even though Jesus let her down, he still is the Christ and God will give him whatever he asks (v. 22, 27). She encourages her sister Mary, who had remained in the house overwhelmed with grief, to get up and go meet with Jesus (v. 28). In my mind, that's a strong woman.
What I find most remarkable is that Martha had the guts, the bravado, to remove the stone from Lazarus' grave. Although questioning Jesus as she considered the consequences (already "buried" four days, bad odor from decaying body, totally unconventional), she was willing to remove the stone simply because Jesus asked her to. She was the older sister in authority over the situation; she could say yea or nay. What if Martha had refused, been too cautious, too afraid? What if she had concluded the risk was too great? I believe her personality, in part, gave Martha the courage and willingness to do something so risky. Again, what an amazing woman!
Although Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Martha first had to agree to remove the stone. This causes me to wonder, what stones might God want me to remove? Are there rituals or conventions that need modifying in a particular situation or gotten rid of entirely, those "we've always done it this way" kinds of things? Is there a policy (or lack of one) that will take effort over time to change or implement? What stones are in the lives of people I am responsible for; what things keep them from "coming to life" or becoming more than they are? What is in my life, places I don't let God or others go, things I've walled off and sealed? What attitudes need to change, what hurts need to be healed?
Martha's willingness to remove the stone resulted in one the greatest signs of Jesus' ministry. What barriers stand in the way of Jesus working miracles in our nursing? What barriers keep God from doing something extraordinary that we can't possibly imagine until he points it out? Let's consider Martha's life and faith, be willing to roll away some big rocks, and believe with Martha that God can work unexpected miracles.