Dimity Grant-Frost thinks about our motivation to serve.
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man, 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' And immediately the leprosy left him. (1)
The nurse will find it easy to apply this short story from Luke's gospel to him- or herself. We have made it our daily duty to be willing to clean, serve and heal the sick and the dispirited. The committed Christian nurse will find it easy to use this account as a sharp rebuke, 'I must be more like Christ as I work! I must show the compassion that Jesus shows here!' In ferocious and exasperated tones we apply to ourselves the poem by St Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body but yours,
no hands, no feet on earth but yours,
yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world,
yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
As we grow in our love for Jesus, we grow in a deep desire to serve him as we minister to the frail elderly in the nursing home, the dying young man for whom older parents keep a worried vigil at home, the shocked family around the ITU bed, the labouring mother. And so this story of Christ and the leper becomes our model, our duty, and sometimes, our burden. This is not wrong. Christ is our model; to serve him, our duty; to share in the suffering of others, our burden.
But, the problem about applying this story in that way is this: we are not intended, at least not first, to see ourselves as Jesus. We are not first the compassionate healer. We are not first the source of cleansing, reconciliation, hope and peace. We are first the leper. We are wounded, broken, outcast, unclean. We are those who need to hear the concern in his voice, feel the tenderness of his touch, and receive the spiritual cleansing that he willingly provided as he laid his life down for us at Calvary.
Before we aim to be like Jesus in our work, we must first model ourselves on the leper. We must see Jesus, and do so as the leper did. When the Nazarene carpenter walked by, the leper did not simply look upon the good teacher or the wise man. He saw his Lord and his only hope for restoration. He did not fear to cast himself in humility at the feet of God, seeking a kindness he knew he did not deserve. And, (what sweet relief!) he did not find Jesus lacking in compassion, mercy, willingness or healing power.
The Advent and Christmas season is an opportunity to remember that out of his love for those who were far away from God, Jesus came as a helpless baby to live among us. He would ultimately face the horrors of death on a cross, so that we, the damaged, the sinful and the needy might be healed and reconciled to the Father. Let's worship the Lord of compassion with the humble manners of the leper, and marvel at the response of Jesus, 'I am willing.' Nothing short of an encounter with Jesus like this one will be able to sustain us to do his work.
Dimity Grant-Frost is CMF Nurses Student Staffworker.