Emptied (Part One)

The syringe pump beeps, signaling that it is out of fluid and that I need to fill it back up. Considering that it is delivering life saving fluid to the newborn baby I am caring for, it’s an important and easy task to do, but at this late point in the day, I’m just plain irritated. I’ve been on my feet on all day with a patient load I can barely handle. I’ve had things to do back to back for eleven and a half hours straight, and now that the day is almost finally over, the syringe pump is sounding off out it’s obnoxious high-pitched beep, and I almost can’t handle it. And I’m embarrassed because I have students and patients watching me and I’m way more annoyed than I should be. 

I want to be a nurse who dances between her patients and is always a source of calming strength no matter how frazzled she may be on the inside. Today I’m not her. I’m tired and my syringe pump is empty and I’m about to break. 

I went to the drawer to pull out a syringe. Empty. I huffed a sigh and murmured something about how I never have what I need. Then I went rummaging through the bowels of the supply cabinet trying to find the right size syringe.

At the same time, I need to give my NICU baby her 18:00 feed even though it’s already past 18:30. The mom knows she needs to express milk, but when I go back to the incubator, she is asleep on the floor and the bottle is…empty. 

My own mouth is dry enough, so I grab my own water bottle to take a refreshing sip. Guess what? Empty. Like my syringe pump, and the syringe drawer, and everything. 

If I were to check my heart in this moment, I’d see the same thing. A heart crying out empty. But I’m so busy and tired, that even that sounds obnoxious, like something I don’t want to deal with right now. 

At the end of my shift, I was shaken up on the inside. Not just because my day was crazy, but because in all the craziness of the day, I got caught up and swept away. I dripped more dry than my syringe pump. I felt like I hadn’t actually done what mattered. A woman who had lost her baby that day needed comfort. Another woman with a sick baby needed encouragement. One of my patients from the day before needed hope. I had every good intention of talking with them, speaking truth to them, offering to pray for them. But I did not. Because I didn’t have a single spare moment to do it. 

I don’t need someone to pat my shoulder and tell me, oh but Ashli you’re doing a good job. Your quality nursing care is opening doors and planting seeds of the gospel. I believe that. I also believe it’s a cop-out sometimes for “letting actions speak louder than words” when really you are just afraid to speak the words God has commanded you to speak. I’m not writing this asking for reassurance; I’m asking for forgiveness. Today I got caught up in the busyness and let my attitude succumb to irritation. Today my life didn’t look like Jesus. 

When Jesus called his disciples in Matthew 10, he told them to leave everything behind, go out with the authority of the Holy Spirit and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom while casting out demons and healing the sick and afflicted. He said they would be persecuted, but they would also see miracles and know perfect joy. I’m convicted by how much my life does not look like that.

I went to bed wondering if I’m doing it right. If I’m even obeying. Oh I think I obey in the way I want to, and I try really hard, but does my life actually line up with the obedience God commands? 

I’ve been wrestling with questions about how to really follow Jesus like he taught his disciples to follow him in the New Testament. How do I love extravagantly, serve humbly, and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of God? How do I evangelize and make disciples in an African context and at the hospital when my contact is so brief? I find myself wanting more. Not in a striving “I-have-to-be-perfect sense”, but in a holy sense. I relate to Jeremiah saying the word of God was a fire in his bones.  God’s heart for the lost grows in me every day.

I see who I want to be and how terribly I fall short. 

I bring all these things to the Lord and I hear an alarming beeping deep in my heart: empty, empty. Only this time it sound less obnoxious and more like a gracious reminder to come, be filled. Come, be filled. 

At the beginning of this year, I asked God to do something new in me. He’s doing it. He is growing in me a heart for people who don’t yet know Jesus, and he’s putting a fire in my bones about it. He is changing the way I read Jesus’ words in the New Testament and helping me believe that I can actually follow them literally, obediently. He is changing the way I think about the Holy Spirit and his authority in my life to liberate captives, heal disease, and proclaim the gospel in word and deed all for the glory of Jesus Christ among the nations. 

But could it be that in all this I must be emptied first? If we want more of Christ, we must be emptied of our pride, selfishness, and reliance on our own strength. Could it be that our floundering is because we’re trying to do things on our own? Could our confusion, questions, and troubled thoughts actually be directly related to the fact that we are trying to make sense of it all and lean on our own understanding?

The signal is crying out: empty, empty. Empty me out. 

Come, beloved, be filled. 

More of you, less of me.

Being emptied is the first step to being filled. 

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