Walking with the Saints

From Christianity TODAY:

“Say the name ‘Florence Nightingale’, and instantly the word nurse pairs with it. Probably she was the most extraordinary nurse in history. Kings, queens, and princes all consulted her, as did the president of the United States, who wanted her advice about military hospitals during the Civil War.”

“It was Florence Nightingale who revolutionized hospital methods in England—and indeed throughout the world. During the Crimean War, she served in the first field hospital ever run and tended by women. She established schools for training nurses, and she introduced procedures that have been benefiting people ever since.”

But did you know that Florence Nightingale, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “found great comfort in her religious beliefs”? “As part of a liberal Unitarian family, at the age of 16, Florence Nightingale experienced one of several ‘calls from God’.  She viewed her particular calling as reducing human suffering. Nursing seemed the suitable route to serve both God and humankind.”

Florence Nightingale answered her “call from God, to reduce human suffering” in the face of significant resistance from her family.  Despite having cared for sick relatives and tenants on the family estates, her attempts to seek nurse’s training were thwarted by her family as an “inappropriate activity for a woman of her stature.” Ignoring her family’s opinions and wishes, Nightingale answered God’s call to serve beginning in 1850 when she learned basic learning skills at an institute in Germany. 

Florence Nightingale later became the superintendent of the Institution for Sick Gentlewomen (governesses) in Distressed Circumstances, in London, where her astute skills as an administrator were realized.  In this role, she improved nursing care, working conditions, and the efficiency of the hospital.

In later years, Florence Nightingale earned the nickname “Lady with the Lamp”, because during the Crimean war, she visited soldiers at night with a small lantern in her hand.  Florence could also be called a pioneer in understanding the connection between physical and emotional health.  She paid special attention to the psychological needs of her patients through assistance in writing letters to relatives and through providing educational and recreational activities.

What an impressive resume.  And more than that, what an impressive answering to God’s call to serve our fellow man and use the talents and skills that God has given us. Florence Nightingale surely answered God’s call to reduce human suffering.

So, this begs the question: What is God calling each of us to do in this life? Have you ever heard a call from God to be his hands and feet in this world?  Psalm 16 tells us “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me… I have set the Lord always before me.” Once we hear God’s call, do we heed the call?  For most of us, making time to be still and listen for God’s call is a luxury in our hectic, over-scheduled lives.  We all, myself included, fall into the trappings of this earthly life that skew our priorities and actions to attending to more “urgent” or at least immediate, matters like paying bills. Or worse still, again, I’m firmly guilty of this, using our precious free time on mindless activities like binge-watching our favorite TV show. 

So, first things first. How do we make ourselves available, ready and receptive to hear God’s call?  Well for me, Church of Our Saviour’s Contemplative Prayer services on Tuesdays, and the Community of Divine Love’s monthly Silent Saturdays and Taizé Services are a wonderful facilitators of creating space and time in which to hear God’s call.  But there are many other ways to still ourselves so to hear God’s call. For many of us, being in nature is a wonderful facilitator.  Walking on the beach, or in the mountains, 2 extraordinary venues that illicit calm and reflection, are readily available in this wonderful place we call home.  For others, music can be a facilitator for listening for God.  Whatever method appeals to you individually, why not prioritize this activity in the coming days and weeks, and see what God says to us?

And once we’ve heard God’s call, how do we heed his call? Well, that’s something else entirely.  Heeding God’s call is a very personal decision and one which only you can personally discern.  And of course, we must remember to be patient, because God has his own timeline and may not reveal to us our calling on the first time we ask him! But once we have discerned God’s calling for us, Church of Our Saviour has a plethora of mechanisms available to us to heed God’s call.  If God calls you to use your gifts as an administrator, I suspect any of COS’s outreach ministries would gladly accept your help in administering the services.  If God asks you to use your gifts in encouragement, any number of outreach services, both at COS and outside of our worship community, can utilize your gift in walking along side of someone in great despair or uncertainty.  By answering God’s call, we can enter into Peter’s words “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling…sure”.  For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10).

So, as we celebrate the sixth Sunday of Easter this Sunday, let us follow in Florence Nightingale’s footsteps and heed God’s calling.  Let us open ourselves to God’s nudging; let us be patient to hear that nudging and calling, and finally, let us be obedient in doing his work.