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  • Figuring out this ER nurse mindset {Part two}

    {Originally Written on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 12:42am, edited 8/2013}

    I heard a portion of scripture yesterday, well, really just heard the words “the least of these” and my mind turned to the patients I care for in the emergency room. I couldn’t remember initially what the rest of the scripture was, but I knew “the least of these” was referring to the down-and-out, the homeless, the poor, the widows, the people who don’t have what many of us do. I felt convicted. Convicted by those four words because I know my heart is searching to be more like Christ, to love everyone with an unconditional love, but my career as an ER nurse is challenging my ability to fulfill that call to love. “The least of these” are seen every day in my profession.

    “The least of these” is from the passage of scripture in Matthew 20; it’s in the parable of the sheep and the goats. They are described as those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, those who are homeless, those who are cold, those who are sick, and those who are in prison. It’s confusing really. Because many who are ‘hungry’ in the ER have made the decision to not work and have insurance because they don’t have to; the system has enabled it. Many of those who are “thirsty” look at you like you’re crazy when you offer ice water; they ask for a Sprite or Coke. One of our nurses met a man the other day who was homeless, living under a bridge, and was having an affair with a woman who was married (still living with her husband in an actual house). And many who are sick in the ER, as I described in my previous blog, are faking illnesses to the extent of having multiple major surgeries in order to get more narcotics. It’s difficult to look at these people and decide if they are “the least of these”, those God wants me to give food, drink, clothes, and shelter to, or if they are “the least of those” and don’t deserve it (as I discussed in my last blog). It’s confusing.

    So my next thought was that it all boils down to if it’s a heart issue. I have to search my own heart when I am taking care of each person as well as take a look at the heart of each person I am caring for. Take a look at these:

    “You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” Matthew 5:8

    Sounds a lot like Proverbs 3:21-29, doesn’t it?

    “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

    It's important for me to be discerning of the people I care for. Just because he/she may fit the profile of “the least of these” doesn’t mean they are, or are not, evil. Often the reason we find out a patient is manipulative is by the words that they say.

    “Don't lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart. Earn a reputation for living well in God's eyes and the eyes of the people.” Proverbs 3:3

    This is my heart’s desire. I want to be discerning, but I want to be focused on my goal of unconditional love in my personal life and in my career.

    “But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.” Jeremiah 7:24

    To mentally tolerate the patients who are not truly “the least of these”, yet expect to be treated as one, I need to keep this verse in mind. Those patients who are purposefully avoiding earning their own food and drink, who are faking illness or using their real illness to get more attention or narcotics than suitable, who intentionally don’t bring supplies for the long stay they will experience in the ER because they know we can supply those needs—those people are going backward, not forward. They are not growing as they could be. My whole purpose in life is to grow closer to and more like Christ with the effect of other people seeing His great love in me and wanting it also!

    So what do I do as an ER nurse for my patients? I unconditionally love them. I love them like Christ died for them, whether they are manipulative or sincere. He did die for them. Sure he was thinking of me when he took the beating, the nails, the weight of the world’s sin, but he was thinking of them just as much.

    When I sat down to write this blog, I went to one of my favorite bible websites to pull up verses and I searched “the least of these”. When I saw it was in the parable of the sheep and the goats, I immediately thought of Keith Green’s piano version. If you have not seen it, or even if you have, go watch it now! I first saw it in college and today when I watched it again it shook my world. Go watch it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix8ddosjg-k


    The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)

    31-33"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

    34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

    I was hungry and you fed me,
    I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
    I was homeless and you gave me a room,
    I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
    I was sick and you stopped to visit,
    I was in prison and you came to me.'

    37-40"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

    41-43"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

    I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
    I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
    I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
    I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
    Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'

    44"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'

    45"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'

    46"Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."


    As the video ended, I was suddenly sobbing and cried, "Oh God, please forgive me!" I needed forgiveness for forgetting that he loves each of my patients, regardless as to what they do or say, or how they act. He has forgiven me for being just as wretched and I am extremely thankful.