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From the age of five until almost thirty-nine, I was a perpetual student. After high school I started on a BSN. Nine months after completing my BSN, I moved to another state to enter graduate school. Five years after that degree, I found myself commuting two hundred miles to work on a doctorate. Funny thing is I never thought about going to college until God led me to get a BSN. Certainly I didn't plan on graduate school, but God kept calling me back for more education. Many times I felt like I would be a student for the rest of my life.

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At one point in my educational marathon, I failed a class. Not too many nursing students fail, but I did. I didn't flunk because I lacked intelligence, skipped classes or didn't complete assignments. On the contrary, I overzealously pursued the semester project, making it so complicated that I lost an understanding of what I was doing. When I couldn't articulate my project to my instructor so she could understand it, I failed. Failing attacked the very foundations of my sense of self and calling to nursing. I experienced all the chaotic thoughts and emotions Barbara Pesut and Heather Meyerhoff describe in their article on clinical failure (pp. 28-33). I alternated between rage (blaming the instructor) and depression (blaming myself) for derailing my nursing career. I cried about everything for weeks afterward. Looking back, I wish the procedures Pesut and Meyerhoff describe to guide the process of clinical failure had been in place for me and my instructor to use.


Before graduating, I came to understand that my failure was part of God's master plan for my life. From a practical standpoint, repeating the class and a year of school allowed me to take extra courses I never would have taken had I not failed. These classes turned out to be immensely useful to my nursing career. And, as Pesut and Meyeroff discuss, the failure allowed me time to mature. I grew up, lost some cockiness and took on a more teachable posture toward learning, especially toward God. I came to understand that I would forever be, indeed needed to be, a perpetual student.


The failure also prepared me to contend for the faith. In writing to the early Christians, Jude appealed to them to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3). Jude points out that although those believers were fully informed about God and his salvation, they needed to preserve God's truth-the whole truth and nothing but the truth-for the world. My failure had nothing to do with my spiritual beliefs; however, having my ideas questioned helped me learn to defend my thinking. I learned that with God's help I can complete difficult tasks, even when people do not agree with me. The apostle Paul learned this every time he was opposed and beaten for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Acts 9-28). Paul never quit broadcasting the message of salvation, even though his listeners regularly disagreed with him. He did not consider himself a failure, even when the majority turned on him and tried to kill him.


How could Paul survive such intense opposition? Because he knew the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6), and he understood God's call on his life to proclaim truth. Failing that nursing course solidified my trust in God and my commitment to his calling into nursing. I learned not to be afraid and to contend for my beliefs. As the editor of a Christian nursing journal, I draw on these lessons frequently.


Christian educators in both secular and Christian schools of nursing contend for the faith constantly. They teach and defend God's truth about the nature of the universe, of life and its origins, about humans being made in the image of God. They help shape the professional character of their students. They pass on morality, biblical ethics, and a passion for nursing and servanthood to Christ. They offer the unique call from God to participate in his healing ministry. Pray for these educators and their crucial work of training future nurses. Pray, too, that you will be a perpetual student.