Saturday, December 4, 2010

Allow Me to Elaborate...

I remember once, many years ago, having the desire to weed through Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" with the gusto of a child ripping through Christmas wrapping. I always seemed to make it through the first few paragraphs of the introduction before I gave up and threw it on the shelf in exasperation. It's not that Russian literature doesn't excite me or even that it's particularly difficult to understand...more often than not, I confess, the reason I have yet to read past the first book of this novel is that I can never keep all the many characters straight. There are numerous main characters in the story and each seems to have at least 3 or 4 different Russian names that they go by, completely confusing any non-native Russian speaker. Alas, I have once again picked up this book with the hope of completing it for the first time. Chapter by chapter I find myself more compelled and intrigued by the intricacies of these characters' lives. How surprised I was to find myself touched, inspired, and convicted by some of the more difficult passages! The scene in chapter 4 of Book 2, for example is of a woman who approaches a very respected elder of the local monastery with her questions, hoping for a blessing from him. She says, "You see, I close my eyes and think: if everyone has faith, where does it come from? And then they say that it all came originally from fear of the awesome phenomena of nature and that there is nothing to it at all. What? I think, all my life I've believed, then I die, and suddenly there's nothing, and...it's terrible! What, what will give me back my faith? When I was a little child, mechanically, without thinking about anything...how can it be proved?" She is asking the age old questions: does my faith mean anything? Is it really real? How can I know for sure that what I believe is truth?

The elder goes on to answer her that she can know the reality of her faith by actively loving and serving others. By putting others above herself she is able to love with the love of Christ and therefore will experience him in the most pure and real way. The woman then muses, more to herself than the elder, that for years she has loved people in this way...nursing them to health, wrapping their wounds, caring for them in their illness. And that no matter the amount of love and care she has for them...at times it's just not enough. Why? Because they are not always grateful, they don't appreciate the love she gives or the work that goes into making them comfortable.

This really resonated with me as a nurse, because honestly, I have have felt this way at times. That no matter how much love and compassion I have for my patients, no matter how tenderly I wrap their wounds or listen to their stories - at times it's not enough. My love is not enough. It's not fulfilling for them and it's not possible for me to continue to pour out all of me. THIS is one of the reasons for MY faith...I need the love of Jesus so strongly in my life and in my work as a nurse. His Spirit moves through me and works in me so that when I love and care for others - it is His love, His compassion, His empathy and care that my patients receive. Just a thought from this great book I'm coming to love...