“The school wants you to skip a grade,” my mother said, like you would say, The dentist wants to drill your teeth.
I checked her expression, my 7-year-old face turning slightly towards her voice. She was downcast. Tired. It had been a year of multiple trips to the principal’s office, a place I secretly liked, away from the classroom, the distraction of 30 other girls and boys. Then testing. Nice men in suits with briefcases filled with puzzles and pictures. They told my mother what she wanted to hear.
“Sure, she’s smart alright.” My dad, who was prone to practicalities, would say,
“She’s a pain in the keister.”
I was both. I would get bored and restless and I would find myself doing gorilla imitations on top of the desks. I was a show-off too.
I like to think that Jesus constrains me now. Plus 53 years later, you would hope I’d learned a few things, but lately I realize that the grace of God allows for times of foolishness. He sees me veering off, sometimes jumping off, and instead of shutting the door and saying Good Luck Charlie (another euphemism of my father’s), He waits. And with great compassion, he rejoices when I return, stumbling home again.
In a hospital, a nurse can do a lot of things. It reminds me of one of those Richard Scarry books that you read to kids, like “The Busiest Day Ever”. You can work in the ER, or the ICU, or OR. Or you can climb the managerial ladder, gaining titles and a train of letters after your name. I’m a basic nurse but with ADHD tendencies. In other words, I get bored. And I admit that I have been lured and caught by the shiny worm. “ER nurse” sounds like Special Forces. You’re saving lives. You’re putting Spiderman band-aids on boo-boos. In the ICU you are surrounded by a forest of high tech pumps and flashing numbers and alarms. And you actually understand what is going on! It’s like a gorilla imitation – people are wowed. And that’s my problem. I get distracted and wander from unit to unit, asking God where I belong but not really waiting for an answer. Then I become aware that I am lost, I am unhappy. I’ve forgotten what matters most.
Lately, right in the middle of my self-inflicted stress and trouble I keep hearing a still small voice within. Look up! And again… Look UP! And when I do, when I shift my gaze from the muddle of daily life, from the tired face in the mirror and remember eternity and my real home, I find my way. It’s clear, it’s direct.
I think it’s so beautiful that God lets me wander, even when it makes Him sad. I’m not sticking needles in my arms or selling my soul but when we refuse to listen to or even ask God what HE wants us to do, it’s all the same. It’s self- promoting, self- first. No one will know but me. And Jesus. His love is astounding.
“Just take care of sick people,” He says. It’s the gift He gave me. It doesn’t matter if I’m a Green Beret or just another soldier. Do what you’re called to do.
Last night I dreamt I was walking beside a river, but the water looked so good I decided to jump in. I was dressed in nice clothes but I just jumped in, all dressed. At first, the water felt good – brisk but refreshing. But then I realized the current was too strong and quick. My best hope was to swim with it, trying to make it over to the other side where I saw a boathouse. Suddenly I saw the water was ending, over a cliff, and I wasn’t sure I could make it to the boathouse. I started to yell, and I saw a man standing on the dock, watching me and laughing. I yelled louder, getting panicked and he just laughed some more, doubled over now and slapping his knee.
“This is the worst!” I thought and just then my foot touched something. It was sand. I put both feet down and stood up, feeling foolish that I was screaming for help when the water was only three feet deep. The man just shook his head, watching me with a smile as I walked to shore, my clothes wet but drying quickly as I neared the boathouse. Then I woke up, smiling, wondering if the man was supposed to be Jesus. Maybe the boathouse was heaven. Or my job.
I felt an unusual joy today at work. Nothing special happened. I walked an old man to the bathroom, the walker catching on the floor as he muttered and softly cursed the dang thing, talked to a young man painted in tattoos about his dreams, his kids, his drinking. He thanked me for being his nurse. And the old man smiled at me through his pain, after I gently lifted him all the way into bed. As I went through the door, I heard him call after me,
“You’re a good kid.”
I think Jesus would say that’s better than being smart enough. Sometimes it’s just being still and listening to the music within the human soul. Skipping a grade, or skipping to the next job or town or church isn’t what matters most. It’s looking up, it’s eternity here, starting now, with Him. It’s wading into the current beside Him, watching, waiting, until He says, “There!”
Skipping a grade didn’t work. Even though I felt humbled by so many 8 year olds, even though Mrs. Krumich threatened to send me back to second grade, eventually I was bored again and resumed my seat in the principal’s office. Smart enough all right. But still a pain in the keister.