“I'm a nurse.” Speaking those words when asked what work we do or writing “RN” when a form requires one's profession has seemed to become more honorable in the past year. Nurses have been in the vanguard of healthcare: extensively profiled, interviewed, held in esteem. Receiving recognition for our profession in the public's eyes has been a hope and an aim for nursing. Being identified as a nurse is respectable and even elevating. It's also just one part of the complex description of ourselves—we're not just what we do. But what we “do” can sometimes overshadow who we are.
Last year, as the influence of the pandemic squeezed down on our lives, we all became isolated and disconnected. This came into sharp focus for me when a friend asked for prayer during a group Zoom Bible study meeting. She was becoming fearful for the health of her 13-year-old daughter who was becoming depressed. Being cut off from school friends and athletic events, the daughter withdrew. She started exercising excessively and eating less and less. Witnessing the development of her daughter's depression was frightening. My friend believed her daughter had lost the truth of who she was because she was deprived of interactions with her friends, as well as the perception of herself she had once experienced through sports and people-based activities. The teen resisted counseling, until another Christian woman invited the young girl to tea. A tentative friendship sprouted and evolved into mentoring.
The basis of the teen and older woman's interactions by phone and text, day by day, was about identity. As this girl and her mentor dug into the Bible for a description of a person who follows Jesus and is made new by the Holy Spirit, the truth seeped into the depressed teen. Seeing and learning the truth and believing it renovated how she understood her identity. The transformation was astonishing. She began to cook for her family and eat more healthfully. Rather than avoiding interactions with her family and friends, she became the one who started connecting with others. This girl was not just restored to her former self pre-depression; she was a new person.
An understanding of one's identity has everything to do with how a person sees himself or herself and the purposes for living that a person pursues. The concept of identity resonates through several articles in this issue. Rachel Spurlock presents it most directly in “Self-Care: A Stewardship Perspective.” Spurlock correctly asserts that “because of Imago Dei, or being made in ‘the image of God,’ how we see ourselves is hugely significant.” Spurlock's assertions and encouragement can refresh our thinking so that, if we know Jesus as Savior and Lord, we can see who we are made to be—and we can care appropriately for ourselves.
The notion of identity is also reflected in the article by Tyson and Beck on the skillful use of therapeutic communication with struggling nursing students. The authors describe the increasingly common anxiety, stress, sadness, and depression many students battle. When the student is losing the battle, identity is threatened. Through therapeutic communication, caring faculty offer active listening, encouragement, and empathy. Christian students who listen and believe the truth about themselves and their situations can perceive or regain their identity in Christ—a strong footing from which to engage emotional turmoil and academic hardships.
And Diggins' firsthand experience of serving individuals in a dry and weary land where water is perpetually scarce is also a touchpoint for maintaining our true identity. Diggins explains how thirst and dehydration are serious afflictions as she reflects in the article, “In Want of Water: Quenching Thirst of Body and Spirit.” The reminder here, for us who know Jesus, is to maintain spiritual hydration. Like the remedy for the teenager who became depressed when she lost her emotional and spiritual footing, our regular, life-sustaining intake of Scripture and time with God is stabilizing.
Although our identity as nurses is significant, I appreciate the veracity of this A.W. Tozer quote that Spurlock included: “The most important thing about us is our view of God. When my view of God as Creator, King, and Savior shapes my view of myself, it makes all the difference.”