I'm working 12-hour shifts in a trauma unit this semester. It's a very high acuity unit and we get patients from all over the state who are basically experiencing the worst day of their entire lives. They were in car accidents (most of them), or had a terrible fall, or tried to kill themselves. No matter what the cause, it's a traumatic injury from which they may or may not recover.
And there I am in the middle of all of it, trying to deal with the devastation in a healthy way without just existing in a constant state of grief and despair.
This afternoon, I sat in a sterile conference room and watched the faces of a family as a doctor told them their daughter-in-law didn't make it and their son was seriously injured. I thought to myself, "This is not for me." My heart was in my throat and I felt on the verge of a panic attack because really... how do you not put yourself in their shoes? How do you not feel just an ounce of their pain?
There are nurses who can compartmentalize and "leave it at the hospital" and I'm just not there yet. I'm realizing that while my greatest strength is compassion, it also may be my greatest weakness. And it is the reason I will not be a trauma nurse (and you can quote me on that). :)
I've been meditating on Psalm 103 recently, my favorite psalm. The first part tells of how incredible our God is... all of his benefits. He forgives all our sins, heals all our diseases, redeems our life from the pit, and crowns us with love and compassion. It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?
And then there's this little verse tucked into the middle of the psalm:
"For he knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust."
Is there anything more fragile, more weak, more inconsequential than dust? As I looked around at bed after bed of fragile life today, I was reminded of how weak and fleeting life on earth is. I remembered how fragile I am, having such a hard time dealing with the tragedies around me. But then I remembered that He knows how we are formed... because he formed us! He knows how he made me to have more compassion in my heart than I can handle... because he gave that to me! And when I compare myself (the dust) to the strong and mighty God that I know him to be, I am comforted.
I am calmed.
I am helped.