A Forceful Faith
I am 30, the age at which Christ began his mission. Now no more childish things, no more vain things, no more love, no more marriage. Now, Lord, let me only think of thy will.
Nursing, professional nursing, must be lifted to the true position that God wishes it to be. If it takes all of my strength, I shall pay the price to put it there.
On her mother’s disapproval of her desire to be a nurse: Oh, dear good woman, when I feel her disappointment in me, it is as if I were going insane . . . what a murderer am I to disturb their happiness. . . . What am I that their life is not good enough for me? O God, what am I? The thoughts and feelings that I have now, I can remember since I was six years old. It was not I that made them. O God, how did they come?
Unmarried at age 32, writing on December 31, 1852: I am so glad that this year is over; yet it has not been wasted, I trust. . . . I have learned to know God. I have recast my social belief. . . . All my admirers are married; most of my friends are dead; and I stand with all the world before me, where to choose a path to make in it.
A hundred struggle and drown in the breakers. One discovers the new world. But rather, ten times rather, die in the surf, heralding the way to that new world, than stand idly on the shore.
I must remember God is not my private secretary.
On the motives of the nurse: The natural motive is the love of nursing which may entirely conquer (as I know by personal experience) a physical loathing and fainting at the sight of operations, etc. The professional motive is the desire and perpetual effort to do the thing as well as it can be done, which exists just as much in the nurse as in the astronomer in search of a new star or in the artist completing a picture. But l do entirely and constantly believe that the religious motive is essential for the highest kind of nurse. There are many disappointments, such sickenings of the heart that they can only be borne by the feeling that one is called to the work by God, that it is a part of his work, that one is a fellow-worker with God.
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #25 in 1990]Excerpts from Florence Nightingale’s letters and diaries [Sources: Lonely Crusader by Cecil Woodham-Smith New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951). “Soldiers’ Heroine Florence Nightingale” by W.C. Wilson in Apollo in Pygmyland and Other True Stories (London: Edinburgh House Press, 1946). God’s Servant at the Battlefield: Florence Nightingale by David R. Collins (Milford, Michigan: Mott Media, 1985).
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