By Eden Burch
Walking into his room, I steeled myself for the verbal onslaught. Degrading comments and disgusting taunts had been made by the patient all night and my compassion was beginning to wear thin. Entering his room this time around was no different. Met with a barrage of expletives and offensive advances, my preceptor and I worked quietly to care for the patient. Nothing was alleviating his animosity. Bending down to offer him an important medication, we were at eye-level with the patient when he spit in our faces.
Leaving the room simmering, I began to pray. Father, I am irritated and tired. I desire to use nursing as a means of ministry–to care for hurting people so that You may be glorified–but there are moments when it’s harder than I imagined. After being berated all night, loving this patient feels like an insurmountable challenge. I’d never step foot in that man’s room again if I could have my way, but that isn’t what You’ve called me to. Please soften my heart and use my weakness as stark contrast to Your perfect power. Amen.
In that moment, images of Christ’s crucifixion flooded my mind. The death He endured was the most horrific display of evil to ever unfold. Jesus was blindfolded, spat at, struck, and mocked after being brought before the Sanhedrin. Bruised, dehydrated, and weakened, He faced Pontius Pilate the next day. The verdict ruled that Jesus be scourged and crucified. Scourging consisted of Him being stripped of all clothing and whipped with leather thongs until the skin on His back gave way to deep lacerations searing the tissue beneath. Massive blood loss due to the extent of those injuries left Him slumped to the ground and nearly faint. Unable to carry His cross to Golgotha, He stumbled to the top of the hill. Spikes were driven between his radial and ulnar bones, as well as through the arches of His feet. Jesus’ intercostal muscles could not function properly due to the sagging of His body, but utilizing the spikes to pull Himself upward to breathe gouged the flesh on His back and shot excruciating pain through His median, sural, and plantar nerves. Carbon dioxide built up in His lungs as He endured partial asphyxiation and intense muscle cramps. His compressed heart toiled to pump thick blood until finally giving out from exhaustion.
Jesus had offered Himself up as ransom for mankind that we might have eternal life and perfect peace someday, only to be ridiculed and mutilated. And in the midst of it all, He’d cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” No greater love has the world ever known.
Reflecting on the costliness of Christ’s sacrificial love as I walked down the dimly lit hospital hallway, two feelings overwhelmed me: grief and gratitude. Every time I have sinned, I may as well have been part of the crowd that crucified Jesus, and yet He loves me. It seems to me that obedience and worship are the only right responses to such costly love.
The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Being imitators of God who walk in love isn’t something we accomplish by meager human effort alone. Instead, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and delivered Himself up for us and we rely on the Holy Spirit who helps us in our weakness (Galatians 2:20, Romans 8:5-6,11-14,26). This changes everything. It impacts how we approach our studies, the way we interact with our family, how we spend time with our friends, the media we choose to consume, the way we handle conflict–and in some cases, it gives us the strength to walk back into a patient’s room with a gentle touch and kind words.
Father, thank You for Your sacrificial love. Help us never forget the costliness of it. Humble us with trials, large and small, so our faith may grow in perseverance and maturity and so we may be better imitators of You who walk in love. Stretch us, sculpt us, refine us. Don’t leave us unchanged in this lifetime. Protect us from the deceitful allure of earthly ease and keep our eyes fixed on You. Help us to live by faith in Your Son and fill us with Your Spirit so we can rightly respond in obedience and worship to You in every situation You call us to walk through. May becoming more like You–for the glory of Your Name alone–be our sole focus and delight all the days of our lives. Amen.