My heart raced with fear as Maggie∗ sprinted across the road. In my peripheral vision, I saw a truck back out of the driveway. My feet started moving and my arms reached out to grab Maggie. Then the truck stopped. Sighing with relief, I bent down to admonish Maggie about being aware of her surroundings. But halfway through my sentence, I saw she was not listening. Maggie's grandma came out of the house, and I told her what had just happened. Maggie went inside as her grandma explained that Maggie's mom was addicted to drugs and alcohol while pregnant with her.
As a prenursing student, I recalled the lecture on fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). The manifestations vary, but Maggie displayed many of the social, physical, and behavioral issues. Maggie's grandma commented that she knew Maggie needed medical help, but money was tight and the stigmas that come with the cost of healthcare stopped her from going to a clinic.
This incident, during my first night as a volunteer for Street Church, a ministry to at-risk inner-city kids, left me stressed, hopeless about change in Maggie's life, and discouraged about the hardships in her neighborhood. All night I had trouble connecting with Maggie due to the effects of FAS: poor attention span, difficulty following instructions, trouble socializing with other kids, inability adapting to change, and lack of impulse control.
That evening, though, I realized that the purpose of this ministry was to provide a safe place for children who have been hurt by circumstances out of their control, and to share the love of Christ with them. Although I was not yet a nurse, I could utilize what I had learned in class to create a space for healing for Maggie. A nurse's role in caring for a patient suffering from attention deficits involves many interventions that I could implement: treating Maggie as a dignified individual and approaching her at her level of functioning; using repetitive and simple language; and employing positive reinforcement like verbally affirming her when she followed instructions.
One year later, Maggie has shown immense improvement. My care created a space where she could learn about God's love and how he is our ultimate healer. Throughout this year, when I was discouraged, whether during my volunteer time or in my nursing studies, I kept going back the New Testament narrative of Lazarus who had died and been entombed:
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. ... Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ (John 11:38-43, NIV)
Jesus calls those who believe in him to “take away the stone” for those who cannot help themselves. We may be afraid or make excuses: “Will there be a ‘bad odor’?” But if we believe, we get to participate in seeing the glory of God. Our intervention can lead someone to Jesus who provides true healing.
There will be times, as nursing students or as professional nurses, where “bad odors” deter away from living out our calling. These bad odors can include life circumstances, fear, insecurity, or failure. But when we persevere, we get to see God's glory displayed! We get to “take away the stone” and provide steps to physical healing, while Jesus gives holistic healing that leads to life.
As a future Christian nurse, I want to develop relationships beyond the cure or the treatment. I want to be there to take off the linens and see God's glory revealed.