I woke early that morning. I couldn’t sleep. I had tossed and turned, prayed, I had even resorted to counting sheep. Instead of continuing the struggle, I lifted one leg at a time out from underneath the covers and touched the carpet with my toes. I sat up, wiping my eyes, saying, “Lord, let me be an instrument of your peace today. Please reveal to me your plan in my career. Please guide me with each of my patient encounters and if I may be so bold to ask, please send me affirmation that I am where you want me to be.”
I headed downstairs, seeking quiet space with my Savior. I poured the hot coffee atop of my sweet cream, the color changing to a tan goodness. I sat on the sofa, the dim light of the lamp providing just enough light for my devotional book.
I opened that devotional book and the Scripture referenced was Psalm 23. One of the most familiar scriptures to most…it is easy to glaze over. This particular morning, I sat with each stanza and prayed for the piercing of my heart with these words…piercing and penetrating it with truth.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I then read the NIV Study Bible’s commentary, that gives a little bit more background to this Psalm.
A David Psalm, this 23rd Psalm was written by one who knew the journey of a shepherd caring for helpless sheep. Boy did I feel like a helpless sheep that morning…in desperate need of my Good Shepherd…Jesus. I immediately reflected on how much I was like a lost sheep, recalling those sermons I had heard about just how truly vulnerable and oblivious sheep are, how very much they require a shepherd to survive…how feeling like a lost sheep was absolutely devastating and lonely.
However, the NIV points out that in this Psalm, the focus is not on the animal qualities of sheep, rather the discipleship qualities of those who follow. It then goes further to say that when we allow our good Shepherd to guide us, then…and dare I say only then…will we have contentment…we will find our place in this life…for only our Shepherd knows the quiet waters and green pastures that will surely restore us. And it is only He who can lead us in finding our place, or Our Uganda…
Just like Jesus does…he turned my thinking into his thinking…and I am so glad that “his ways are higher than my ways, his understanding higher than mine…” It was as if he said, “Stop thinking about poor little sheepy you…and starting thinking about following me, your Shepherd. I have and always will be here. It is your choice to see yourself as a sheep or as a follower (disciple) of the only Shepherd that can offer true and lasting hope and life.”
Hmmmm. Sheep versus disciple…good food for thought as I started my day. But I sure still felt like a sheep.
I went to do my next morning ritual, jumping in the shower.
I stepped in, as usual, mindlessly, turning the water knob, waiting for the exact right temperature…but once that warm water touched my tender skin, I was surprised with emotion. My eyes stung, that sting before the watering, before the tears and before the pain. I began sobbing, my tears flowing like the water that escaped the shower head. They wouldn’t stop and at that point…I didn’t fight them.
I had been holding them in for a long time, as I do. Being a mom of three little ones, working part-time in a service career can take its toll in general and then add in the inherent need, as a firstborn, to hold it all together, to be the strong one, the peacemaker, the responsible one, the example of all things good and perfect. This pressure cooker I choose to step into on a daily basis is crushing enough…but add in that during this time, I had a very sick patient who I feared was dying…and I would be the one to have to share this news with the family. But, how could I be right?
Insecurities raced through my head as I heard things like, “You are only a nurse practitioner, only a nurse, you cannot make that type of claim…that a patient is dying…a physician has to make that call…” I believed this lie and yet… I didn’t believe it at the same time.
My tears that morning were those of a deep longing type, for direction and affirmation that my current path was one God had chosen for me…even in the midst of such agonizing realization that maybe, just maybe, I was qualified enough to make this call. This call to tell a family what no family wants to hear. No family, whether the family member of question is young or old…no family wants to hear it.
I pleaded with God to please send me affirmation, boldly I prayed. “Show me how to see myself as your disciple and not just a sheep”… I dried my tears, as best as I could…I put on my clothes, my make-up, fixed my hair, put on my jewelry, woke my precious three babies, dressed them, fed them, brushed their little teeth and sent them out the door with their daddy to school and daycare.
I drove in silence to work.
I entered my first patient room of the day, whispering my usual, “Let’s do this…” pep talk. I sat down to get the history from the mother about her daughter. The mother seemed to be a little out of sorts, not like her usual peppy and upbeat self. I asked her if she was ok. She then told me that she had a kidney stone and was in the midst of trying to pass it the night before the appointment. She said she thought about cancelling the appointment, but that God had told her that she needed to come to the appointment to affirm me.
Me, a mere sheep??
She then grabbed a book from her mom bag called Kisses from Katie, a book about a young woman who left everything familiar to answer an unpopular call (her family was not pleased with this choice at first) to Uganda to care for orphans. This mother said to me, “I want you to read this book. It is wonderful. I also want you to know that THIS is your Uganda. You do not need to go anywhere or do anything extraordinary. Your Uganda is here, in the hospital, with your patients. This is where God is calling you to minister.”
I am not sure God has every spoken so clearly to me before that event or since that time. As many doubts as I had…and honestly still have…it is clear that God has called me into healthcare and into the role of a pediatric nurse practitioner. It is a hard calling, but aren’t most of the God callings on your life just that…hard?
The encounter with this mother, right on the heels of being challenged to see myself as a disciple instead of a mere sheep was the start of a journey that I am still traveling. It is my journey to find my Uganda. I do believe that my career as a pediatric nurse practitioner is part of that calling, but what I am realizing more and more every day is that Uganda is wherever God is…and that changes.