What is God’s purpose? Disease, conflict, and anger? Like it or lump it, we all fall down at some stage in our lives to such conditions.
No, he had to be wrong. What possible meaningful purpose could this diagnosis have on my life?
At twenty-one I didn’t want to digest the results the Rheumatologist gave me and my young heart sank. His prognosis of a debilitating disease put a spanner in my life plan–and not for the first time, I might add.
My first memory of hospitals
At four-years-old, I was in the hospital on my own, in a cage that sent shivers down my spine. Watching my distraught parents leave added further trauma, and no amount of soothing from the staff helped. Who wouldn’t scream for their mum and dad?
Preparation for surgery involved a bath. However, my complexion which often looked mottled caused the nurse to take the scrubbing brush and rub until my skin stung. That done, with me sobbing and traumatised, a stranger wheeled me off to the theatre.
Consequently, I ignored my parents the next day. They had left me in the hands of sadists. The nurse who had bathed me accused them of maltreating me. She believed they hadn’t heard of washing. My dad enraged and horrified at the allegation barked at the nurse, “It’s not dirt, but blemishes caused by the sun.”
Abandoned, battered and bruised, forced to eat cabbage, and a large scar running up from my belly button left a lasting impression. No one ought to suffer like that.
With my mind made up, I decided there and then on a nursing career.
The Holy Grail
At eighteen, dressed in a nurse’s uniform, my plan had come to fruition. The WRAF had accepted me to train as a nurse and as a result, I could barely contain my excitement.
Thirteen months later, I reticently handed over my uniform and sobbed my way out of the Military and nursing. Dreams crashed as the officer’s words announced my fate and shut all doors to my promising future. Challenging authority, no matter the honourable nature of the situation led to my downfall. As I applied to train again no-one offered me a place. The officer’s words rang true, and I ended up with the lowest paid jobs in Health Service after that.
So where was God in all of this?
Disease, conflict, and anger decided my path once I left the Forces and nursing training. Along with becoming a nurse, I’d desired the life of a medical missionary within a Religious Order. That crumbled next with a bad diagnosis. My spiritual director suggested perhaps God wanted me to enter a different kind of Order.
At the age of twenty-three, I entered a Contemplative Religious Order for people with disabilities, the only one of its kind. My family thought I was mad, but God beckoned, and I happily lived there seeking Him for nearly three years.
Then anger took over, lost dreams and time spent alone caused friction within myself and the Community. The Prioress suggested I take a year out and “find” myself. I didn’t know I was lost. But God knew exactly what I needed, and two weeks later, I worked as an auxiliary nurse (basically equal to a bed pan) in a Hospice Unit in London far from the tranquil countryside–a miracle in itself and story for another time.
My childhood experience led me into nursing but God closed the door. But then He opened the path to a greater calling. Joy of joys! The disease that had led me to the Convent, burnt itself out while I lived there! I didn’t return after my year out.
Walking a new life, my anger and disappointment with both my failed occupations grew fainter. Loving patients at the end of their life while wiping bottoms and serving where God wanted me at that given moment in time–working His will, walking in His purpose–revealed He is indeed the Master of my life.
My experiences moulded the path I wanted to walk, but God had other ideas and His own purpose for my life. Does this sound similar to the Apostle Paul’s experience? Paul went one way–the wrong–way with great zeal, but God had another purpose in mind. I’m in good company.
“…Many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,” Acts 26:10-11 and 14-17
Has God ever rerouted you for His purpose?