Nurses, Spirituality, and Why We Should Pee Our Pants

It happened a thousand times at the hospital. I scurried from one room into another, where a patient lay on the bed and sighed loudly when I walked in.

"Well you're too late now," began the spiel. "I done peed in the bed."

Sometimes it came with an apology, sometimes with embarrassment. Often it came with anger and blame.

Our reply as nurses was consistent. "It's okay, we'll have you cleaned up in no time."

The rebuttal from our patients was also consistent. "If you would just let me get out of bed by myself...but they told me I had to push this call light and now it's too late."

"It's okay," we repeated. "It's no problem to clean you up. We'd rather do this than you fall on your way to the bathroom."

I can still picture my patients' faces, confused and concerned as I cleaned them up and changed the sheets. They probably often thought, "This is the worst thing that could have happened."

Adobe stock photo

Adobe stock photo

Yet as nurses, we worked hard to prevent bad things from happening to our patients. We had specific, evidence-based practices helping us determine when patients were safe and healthy enough to get up on their own. The worst case scenario in the eyes of a patient (peeing their pants...or rather, their hospital gown) wasn't all that bad to us.

"Bad" was falling and breaking bones, coding and needing resuscitation, or developing complications and needing to be transferred emergently. It was a matter of perspective.

Most of the time, patients couldn't see their condition from the outside—they weren't equipped to assess their physical condition and the potential dangers of trekking to the bathroom alone in a hospital room. (And there are many! The slippery floor, the equipment, the cords, the IV pole and tubing...)

Patients cannot always see these dangers; they simply know their pride is wounded. These patients remind me of someone—someone who cannot always see the larger picture but who complains loudly when pride is wounded.

These patients remind me of myself.

Often, I have lacked the perspective to see potential dangers in the path to reach my goals. Often, I have only been concerned about my pride and my dignity—they seemed so important at the time! Often, I have treated God as though He is purposely neglecting what I deem my greatest needs.

I am the patient who's peed my pants. Over and over and over.

Like the patients who have yelled at their nurses, I have hurled accusations at the One who enters the room to clean up my sense of self-worth when I'm embarrassed and ashamed. Like a hospital patient, I cannot see past my the bed and the calamities He kept me from. I cannot see the tragedies that never happened. I only see the mess in my bed and my messed up pride.

Just as a nurse's heart is not to make patients pee in the bed but to protect them from greater harm, I'm starting to see God's heart is the same. His heart is not to hurt but to mend; His direction is not to limit or humiliate but to protect. He, like nurses, would rather our pride be wounded than our whole selves be broken.

Stock photo from

Stock photo from

When I look back, I can see this. Not getting my dream job brought me to a better opportunity. That difficult summer in Cambodia wounded my pride but led me to the Healer of my soul.

Over and over and over, I've peed my proverbial pants. I've experienced disappointment, prayed unanswered prayers, and lost what I thought was my dignity. Yet the Lord gently reminds me dignity is not determined by how I hold myself or view myself but is upheld when I see myself as I truly am: broken and needy and dependent, yet worthy of love and honor and respect because He has made me and calls me His.

Nursing has taught me many things, and today it teaches me to trust. It teaches me not to be the rebellious patient who thinks she knows best, but to be wise and humbly dignified as I thank God for letting me pee my pants and for always cleaning me up.

If it teaches us more about Christ and brings us closer to Him, I'd rather pee my pants any day, and I'd rather you pee yours too.

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