by Anita Miles
Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since that disastrous day, when I walked into the tiny medication room on the Mother / Baby floor for the first time. I had been assigned to Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian, MS for my nursing school clinical rotation and was dreading every single second of it. Most of my dread stemmed from the fact of who my clinical instructor would be. While her identity is not important in this forum, my perceptions from brief previous encounters had marked Mrs. Webb as stiff necked and really hard to get along with. She was all business and my experience with her in the classroom had been totally different from the other professors of our nursing program. She was vague with her note giving during her lectures, but her expectation was for us to go home and dig through the 4-5 inch thick textbook to study the actual details we would need for testing after she would briefly touch on a topic. This was a teaching style that none of us had yet encountered, so the entire nursing class struggled and ultimately paid for it on the first couple of exams. This was devastating to me, as I had never experienced the academic issues that I seemed to be having under her. As you could imagine, that led to a bit of irritation on my part.
As I walked into the med room that morning, there she stood. I was about to recite my steps in the care I was to perform on my patient when Mrs. Webb turned to me and said, “Anita, what exactly do you think your problem is this semester? You seem to be struggling more than I was prepared for. According to the other professors, you’ve never struggled with concepts and testing!” I really can’t remember a moment that I was caught more off guard with a question. In my mind, she was standing there berating me for what a failure she thought I was. I tried to come up with some lame excuse to explain away my lower than normal grades on the two exams I had taken so far. She shook her head with an unconvinced nod and I quickly went on my way. I had discreetly attempted to insinuate that she was the problem.
Let’s just say that the entire day was ruined by 8:00 that morning and I spent the rest of it stewing and mulling her words around in my head. By the time I arrived back at my cabin that evening, I had reached the phase of just being down right mad. My usual nature had been cool, calm, and collected, but she had really went above and beyond to insult my intelligence. Or that’s at least what I had imagined…until later that evening. I sat down at my desk and stared blankly at her class notes that I no longer could comprehend because of my frustration with her. I was somewhat half heartedly praying that God would avenge me in the situation. As I sat there, it was as if the frustrations were starting to melt away - as though someone was washing my heart clean of them. All of the irritation that had plagued me throughout the day was beginning to be replaced by questions… HARD questions. What if she IS right? What if I AM the problem? What am I going to do to fix this? How can I improve my situation? How can I express to her that I want to be better than she currently thinks I am?
All of a sudden, something just ignited in my heart and I made a declaration instantly that I would NOT let this moment define me!! Or maybe it would... I knew I’d come too far to let this ruin my dreams of what I was aiming for! So right then, right there, I simply changed my mind. I told myself that I WAS better than this...and I set out to prove it! And I did….
Two semesters later, the day I received my RN pin, Mrs. Webb met me on the stage, arms wide open, with a big bear hug and a beaming smile. We had talked before that moment and she knew that she had gotten the best of me that day in the medicine room. She also knew that she was most of the reason that the flame was re-ignited in my gut to give me the motivation to do what it took to get to where I was heading. I had also learned another valuable lesson…. Mrs. Webb wasn’t against me!! Somehow, she knew that I had something much better in me than I was revealing. But in all of my irritation of her confrontation, I had totally misconstrued her intent. Somewhere along the line, we had all gotten comfortable with the process and she was trying to get me (and everyone else) to reach further within to exhibit everything we were capable of...not just what we wanted or were willing to give.
I’ve not recited this life event of mine for naught…. I’ve seen it more times than I care to count!! Sometimes it is in our personal lives as women, and other times in our journey to our eternal destination as Christians.
There are times we get comfortable with where we are and what we’re giving of ourselves. Many times we don’t even realize it, but we will have worked ourselves right into a fine rut! Then along comes someone to challenge our complacency or our standard of living, and it becomes personal. As sad as it seems, a lot of the time, it’s much easier to wallow in the stench of our own opinions than to accept the constructive criticisms that are perceived as wounds from faithful friends and people who care deeply about us.
If our hearts are not committed to a pursuit of Godly living, this correction or instruction often results in anger, frustration, disappointment and disillusionment. In the end, our response to constructive correction, guidance, or challenges to our ways and intelligence, is all a revelation of how teachable we are. I think that we easily forget that having a teachable heart is one of the most valuable traits of a Godly woman - especially in our society of the 21st century that prides itself on a woman’s autonomy and ability to think for herself!
I ask you to consider Esther and her predicament while being placed in the highest office a woman could hold in her day. She was the Queen, for crying out loud! Yet her destiny and that of all of her nationality depended on her teachable spirit. What if her position had quickly gone to her head, and she was no longer touchable by Mordecai? One by one, individuals of an entire nation would have been destroyed because she failed to do the one thing she was asked and was called to do.
Thankfully, that’s not the way the story went… Esther knew she had a purpose and that she was being set up for such a time as this! She did not let the power she had been granted change her heart towards her people. She was only able to reach that destiny with a mind that was open to instruction, following the steps given to her by someone who was wiser and who could see a bigger picture than she could. I urge us to ask ourselves - are we touchable? Or have we arrived at a place where we no longer need guidance? I assure you, the latter is a slippery slope to utter destruction in our lives.
If we could also consider young Samuel laying there in the Temple of the Lord trying to get a little sleep... He heard his name called and went to Eli. Eli denied he had called him and told Samuel to go back to bed. Once again, Samuel heard his name and goes back to Eli. After the 3rd time, Eli perceives what is happening and tells him how to respond. What do you suppose would have happened if, instead of following Eli’s instructions, Samuel had rolled his eyes, puffed a big breath of his disgust, and loudly clomped back to his bed - all the while, muttering under his breath about what a bumbling idiot Eli was? (I used that parade of behavior because it seems to be a common method among the youth of our society in their immature arrogance...) Nonetheless, had this been the case, I certainly don’t assume Samuel would have ended up one of the greatest prophets that the land had ever known! And the list could go on and on…
As hard as it is to admit, the influences of the world, especially when it comes to attitudes and entitlements, are seeping through the cracks in the church’s walls like a disgusting sewage leak. We’re plagued with constant groans of irritability and short fuses!! When our pastors are exhausting themselves to preach truth, we are prone to throw our hands up in defense of our actions and begin our mental chats and sometimes chats with others, who think as we do, of why we just don’t see it that way.
Proverbs 13:1, 18 is very clear about the consequences of the above vein of thinking. “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction; but a scorner heareth not a rebuke; Poverty and shame SHALL BE to him that refuseth instruction; but he that regardeth reproof shall be honored.” In the pursuit of virtue, may we all seek a teachable spirit. I challenge each of us to ask ourselves those hard questions!! We cannot project our faults to just any scapegoat we can think of.
To be truly effective, we must throw our hearts wide open to Godly instruction and reproof. And let’s be honest, if we are the problem, there’s no alternative, but repentance!
Lord, create in me a CLEAN heart...one that isn’t tarnished by my opinions, my attitudes, and the insistence that I have all the answers!! Purge me!! Make my heart open to understanding, wisdom and instruction! More than anything, I must be acceptable in YOUR sight!!