I’ve never worked so hard or been so exhausted in my entire life. Years from now, I’ll probably look back on this statement, roll my eyes, and tell my 27-year-old self that you don’t even know what hard work it, but for now, I can say I’ve never worked so hard or been so exhausted in my entire life.
At six ‘o clock in the evening on my sixth out of seven days of working twelve hour shifts at the hospital (including two night shifts), I had nothing but tunnel vision to finish passing my meds and get home as soon as possible. Six shifts in seven days is tough enough, then consider that a “normal” shift regularly involves caring for anywhere from one to four laboring patients plus a few postpartum couplets and a NICU baby or two, which ends up at an average ratio of about one nurse to nine patients. This past week, I had as many as fourteen. (To give comparison, when I worked as an L&D nurse in the US, what was considered “safe” was one nurse to two laboring patients only.)
It’s not uncommon for a shift to involve an obstetrical emergency and a code for one of the NICU babies…often at the same time. For example, just this week I’ve seen cord prolapse, postpartum hemorrhage, bleeding ectopic pregnancy, placental abruption, and uterine rupture. I’ve gotten much better at multitasking for sure: Bag a little here for this baby whose saturation is 50. Once it gets back up to 90, go push a little more ampicillin for this baby with meningitis, then give a couple of millilitres of milk to this premature baby who has NGT feeds, go massage a postpartum fundus real quick, then come back to bag your baby who’s saturation is now back to 50. Sometimes the day goes a little like that.
Every shift I have an African nursing student working under me, which means I am also responsible for instructing him or her and making sure his/her patients are being safely cared for. This demands an extra amount of emotional and Intellectual capacity. Oh, and it also averages 100 degrees inside the maternity. Today I drank four liters of water before I peed once.
That’s why after six days of basic insanity, all I could think about was getting home to shower, eat, and crash into bed.
I cycled slowly home. Mainly because my body couldn’t do anything else at full speed, but also because I just needed to feel the beachy, hot breeze and hope some of my stress would blow away with it.
I started to pray, and just like John writes about in 1 John 3, my heart started to condemn me. A car zoomed by, leaving a trail of dust billowing up, illuminated by the oncoming moto headlights. There was no way around the dust cloud, so I turned my head to the opposite side and tried not to breathe as I biked right into it. At the same moment, I was confronted with my human limits, overall weakness, and unbearable fatigue.
Today hadn’t been a crazy day, in fact, it was quite calm and manageable, for which I was very thankful. I had every intention of being strong today despite my tiredness. I had even prayed for God’s supernatural strength. But I guess I never got it or never tapped into it, for I was just so physically and mentally exhausted that it was the best I could do just to accomplish the bare minimum, nevermind give excellent nursing care. I hadn’t been a very good preceptor to the students. I had barely spoken with my colleagues. Honestly, I avoided conversation. I hadn’t really even been myself. And I tried to give myself grace and understand that no normal person should have to function under this load, but I began to weep anyway because I know who I want to be, but seem so far from getting there.
The dust settled and I turned my face forward again as the Lord spoke a word to me.
I can’t emphasize how important scripture memorization is, for in moments like this, God spoke his Word straight to my weary, fragile heart, and I was ready to receive it only because I was familiar with it. I had treaded this verse before, like my bike tires that find those ruts in the sand.
“For he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)
The very nature of dust is fleeting, so light weight that a slight breeze blows it away like a fine vapor. It’s value is close to nothing. I know about dust because I live in it. Seriously, using google earth, take a look at west Africa from space. It’s completely brown from the dust that blows off the Sahara desert. In the morning, the sun doesn’t rise at the horizon, is appears around 7am when is rises above the dust cloud. The dust here accumulates so much in a day that you can draw pictures on the kitchen table at dinner time. The dust sticks to my sweaty skin and washes off in the shower like mud, which is very disappointing when you think you are getting tan.
I don’t spend a lot of time appreciating dust, but God did. It’s a very intentional wonder that God made man out of dust and breathed life into him.
Why dust? God wouldn’t scoop up a handful of dust and blow life into it to create a human being that would be powerful with inexhaustible energy and unstoppable strength. If he wanted that, he wouldn’t have used dust. The very fact that he used dust demonstrates the fragility and temporality of our human nature. Plus, God already has incomparable power and strength. No, he didn’t create us because he needed more strength, but because he wanted love. He desired to love unconditionally and extraordinarily and to be loved in return.
Some might argue that God also made man so that he would be worshipped. But what is worship if it’s not love? Loving God is our purest and best act of worship, the very reason for which we were made.
God did not knit each human being together in his mother’s womb because he needed a whole bunch of performers and accomplishers. He is fully capable of working and accomplishing all things with one word of his holy breath. But instead he used his breath to breathe life and existence into us. He made each one of us fearfully and wonderfully, counting the hairs on our heads and numbering our days in his book. The only logical explanation for such tender care and creativity is love.
He remembers that we are dust.
God didn’t gloriously breathe life into a handful of dust and then demand a life of fast-paced, high achievement, unstoppable energy out of it. There is no pressure for dust to perform perfectly or live a life of noteworthy accomplishment and applause. We’re aren’t superheroes; we are dust. And God says he remembers this. This means he doesn’t expect supernatural strength; rather he desires organic love. As organic and natural as he dust we are made of.
These thoughts hit me like the cloud of dust I’m made out of. Here I was, condemning myself and apologizing for me fatigue and weakness. And here was God, reminding me, I remember that you are made of dust. I don’t expect perfect performance, I desire steadfast love.
I don’t know know where you are biking today, what kind of day you’ve had, or what kind of stress you are trying to blow away with the wind, but maybe you, too, need to be reminded by a loving God that you are made of dust. And he knows. He sees you. He understands. He knows your frame and your limitations. He made you with frailty so that you can lean more fully on his strength, and in resting on his strength, you will find the love, identity and worth you are looking for.
Just as he remembers that we are dust, we must remember that he is NOT made of dust. He breathes galaxies into existence, and all creation and history respond to the command of his voice. He never grows tired or weary, his understanding is limitless, his power is incomparable. He doesn’t expect us to be perfectly strong no matter what; he wants us to love him no matter what. He doesn’t measure us based on our accomplishments or achievements…those weigh about as much as the dust we are made of. These are the measurements he speaks of in Ephesians 3:18.
How wide and long and high and deep is the love of God.
Instead of measuring ourselves so much, maybe we should be contemplating the measure of his love. It’s kind of like trying to measure the specks of dust in this cloud that just enveloped us as God passed by.
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