“What If?”

Despite having done all we could, our patient didn’t make it…while I was able to maintain professional composure at work, I woke up this morning feeling utterly spent.

To be blunt, last night was a tough one. I work as a nursing assistant in a hospital, and on my fourth evening on in a row I lost a patient for the first time in my career. I did my job well, staying out of the way and keeping things as clean and safe as possible with the doctors and nurses running the code and even taking over CPR while two nurses set up a device to do CPR for us. Despite having done all we could, our patient didn’t make it. While I’ve seen two of my grandparents die, they went peacefully on comfort care surrounded by loved ones. Attempting to resuscitate someone is a difficult and brutal process. While I was able to maintain professional composure at work and continue caring for my patients, when I woke up this morning I felt totally and utterly spent both physically and emotionally.

I must confess that I didn’t run yesterday. I was exhausted from working the weekend and I let it get the best of me yesterday morning, dilly-dallying around the house in the morning for several hours instead. This morning, I made it a point to pray, write and read (albeit for class) on one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: communion, or the Eucharist. Theology nerd-ing aside, it’s gotten me thinking about what I believe and how I’ve come to the place I am today. A few years ago, one of my track coaches said something that struck me as insensitive at the time and also got me thinking. My long jump coach said to a group of us, ‘My mom always used to say that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.’  I pretty much just wanted to punch him at the time- I’m really glad I didn’t. In the days that followed, I found myself wondering two things. One, what if it’s true that I get to choose how I respond? It hadn’t occurred to me before that I get to choose how I steward my emotions. Two, and this was the radical, life-changing question…since suffering is real and valid, what if God is really, truly good and there is more hope for redemption and renewal in this world than I’ve ever dreamed?

I don’t run for me anymore. The part of me that ran purely for pleasure and for fun died with the university investigation of an assault I experienced. Much like in the story of Jesus’ resurrection, after the spiritual death of shame, humiliation and agony I experienced, I am now rising. I often feel uncomfortable talking about my faith; I’ve been hurt and abused by the church and I don’t want to inflict that or bring back memories of it for anyone else. One thing I believe, and hope that everyone who reads this will take away, is that storytelling is a powerful medium of shared human experience and relationality. Running for clean water with Team World Vision is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s not easy, and it’s not glamorous. My Instagram feed doesn’t show you all the times I’ve cried, nearly (or actually) soiled myself mid-run, been sunburned, felt hopeless, been completely drained and shaking, scared out of my mind. At the beginning of a season, we tell our runners, “Don’t do the math.” When you’ve just started running, it’s easy to feel intimidated and doubt the training plan. The same is true of spiritual transformation: don’t do the math about the demons you’ll have to face or the discomforts you expect to endure. All you have to do is the next right thing, one brave and faithful step at a time.

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