by Rachel Palekas
Peninsula Fellows Class of 2020
I currently work as a nursing assistant on a mother-baby unit in a local hospital. My main “job” is being in nursing school, but the nursing assistant job I have is definitely preparing me for my future career in nursing. I graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Psychology and Biblical Studies without really being sure of what I wanted to do with it, then spent 9 months in the Peninsula Fellows program. All I knew for a long time is that I wanted to help people, but I was never sure in what context. By the grace of God and exposure to my host family (who have two nurses – shout out to the Carlsons!), I was given the courage to try something I had been scared of for a long time. I believed I wouldn’t be good enough or smart enough to go to nursing school, but the Lord did a lot of work in my heart and mind to lead me to take the leap of going into healthcare, as well as giving me the endurance to continue going to school.
Working in the medical field is really interesting because it can be a misleadingly dark place - people can trust in science more than they trust in God’s sovereignty, which is a temptation for anyone, myself included. God gave us this amazing gift of our minds and modern medicine, but ultimately, we can’t solve every problem or condition. And realizing our limitedness is glorifying to the Lord.
As someone who is called daily to choose to die to self, I’m called to have joy and bring life into my hospital and treat every patient with the dignity and love that they deserve as a beloved child of God, no matter the outcome. And some days a patient or a family member will get really terrible news. I can choose to turn off my emotions to protect myself, becoming almost machine-like, or I can choose to enter into that grief with them; letting them feel emotions and continuing to give them really thoughtful care is absolutely glorifying to God. As it says in Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
I don’t want any of what I’ve written so far to sound like it’s the easiest thing in the world, because it isn’t. If you ask me what some of the biggest challenges to glorifying God in my work, you’ll hear the same answer I’ll tell most people when they ask how I’m ‘really’ doing. I’m just tired, almost always. If you ask anyone working in healthcare right now, you’ll hear the same answer. Compassionate burnout is real. Some days it feels like nothing any of us do really matter, or that I have nothing left to give. Because of that, it’s so easy to go on autopilot and not be intentional about having a good attitude or treating every patient like they are a child of God deserving of excellent care and service. While it is extra challenging on those days I’m extra tired and burnt out, the Lord doesn’t ask me to walk into work alone.
Just like the Lord walks with me into work, He also walks with me as I’m in school. And school is just as much my job right now, if not more, than the work I do on the mother-baby floor at the hospital. Sometimes it’s even harder to think of ways I can glorify God when I’m studying all day or taking a really difficult test. That same grumpiness I face at work also sneaks into my schoolwork, too. But I continue to make the choice to learn and study for the Lord, not for myself. If you change your perspective on school to make it worship, it will also change your attitude. I mentioned this earlier, that God gave us our brains and modern medicine, but He also gifted us with the ability to learn. He gave us SO MUCH to learn about – and the more I learn about the human body and how it works, the more in awe of Him I am. Leaning into that and using our education to understand the world we’re in better will really bend our hearts towards worship and away from an attitude of grumpiness. But that’s an active choice we have to make, right? On this broken side of eternity, our hearts will always tend toward complacency and numbness if we don’t intentionally make another choice. But the Lord gives us endless grace, and with that grace we can choose to continue to be grumpy and grumble about school or work, or we can choose to worship Him.
My story of how I got to where I am now is glorifying to God in itself, but continuing to make the Lord a priority in my work is a daily choice that will continue to bring Him glory.