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Traci Warner ~ CB ‘00b ~ Missionary Nurse to Nicaragua
Written January 1, 2010 and printed in a Vanderbilt publication
Do you remember sitting in English class during your freshman year and being asked to write an essay about
what or where you would be in ten years? That was easy. I knew I’d be 1) married with children, 2) a physician,
and 3) serving as a full-time missionary overseas. If someone could have looked ahead at my future and told me
I’d be 1) single, 2) a nurse practitioner, and 3) living and working in a clinic in downtown Nashville, I would have
considered my life one of complete failure. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it makes for a great introduction for an article to be
read by those who are fearful of failure or who are consumed with success and planning out every detail of their lives. Thankfully, I had
learned years before to trust God with my life and to allow Him to shape me into his image and use me however He saw fit. I wanted to
make the claim that Paul did in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” and I can honestly say that
those same things I would have once considered a failure are now my greatest joys, the things I have become most content in.
I happen to really love and appreciate the story of my life that God has written over the years. I could go into depth with a number of
themes. I’m choosing to write on one that at this point may cause you to stop reading—singleness—but I hope not. There are things I
will address that my married friends ought to read as well.
I have 33 years of experience of being single. I’ve read the books. I’ve heard the sermons. I use to go to the singles-only workshops at
my missions conferences, mostly to learn. After a while, I was sure I had heard or read everything there was out there on singleness,
and I needed a break, not because I was lonely or sad or feeling pathetic about myself, but mostly because I had reached that point
when I figured I could just write the material myself. After all, I truly had an understanding of the blessings and gift of singleness Paul
described in I Corinthians 7, that uncomplicated devotion to God and to service for Him. Aside from full-time work at a busy clinic
for the working uninsured, for the past eight years, I have been the administrator for Vanderbilt’s Medical Campus Outreach (MCO
is a ministry for medical and nursing students where we offer opportunities to teach students how to incorporate their faith in their
practices). I have had many opportunities to serve with them in medicine. Most of the students and residents are single. I’ve observed
that especially in medicine, many people are delaying marriage until they get through medical, nursing, or dental school. They’re
holding off until they secure that stable job in healthcare. Whatever the situation, whether by choice or not, I observed the same things
over and over in these settings, very little contentment in singleness. I’ve actually come to pity my friends and acquaintances that pine
away for what they think will be the ultimate fulfillment of their lives and yearn for the desires of their hearts. So I wanted to address
just a few of the temptations we as singles face.
Temptation to Put Life on Hold
Many single people have that vague sense that their singleness is a temporary phase. It may be. It may not be.
(I wonder if my married friends ever consider that their married-ness may also be temporary.) Either way,
there is a big temptation to just wait for that special someone to come along, wait for a better quality of life
that comes with marriage. (If you’re married and still reading this, you’re probably chuckling right now. Let
me encourage you to take that knowledge and share with or counsel a single person in your life who may be
struggling and have a wrong idea that once he’s married he’ll be more “whole.”) So singles wait.
We’ve all said it in some form or another: “I can’t wait until Friday, when this work-week is over.” Or maybe
it was, “I can’t wait until next month when I take the boat out on the lake,” or “I can’t wait until the last
patient is done so I can go home to my family for dinner.” You might have had more distant timing: “I can’t wait until I finish my
residency training so I can practice out on my own.” When I was in college, one of my mentors cautioned me on making those kinds
of statements, if for no other reason, to just be aware of the opportunities I may miss during those minutes, days, or weeks I was
wishing away. If I can’t wait for Friday and wish away Thursday, I just might miss that opportunity God has to bring an amazing patient
encounter my way that day. In the same way, if my single friends wish and hope for that day down the road, there are so many potential
missed opportunities to serve God and to serve others in the here and now. I’m so thankful that I can look back at the last twelve years
of my life and know that I did not waste them pining for something that God did not have for me at that time. I’ve been blessed to serve
both at a faith-based clinic in downtown Nashville and also to serve overseas on many medical mission trips.
I’m sure we can all relate in some way or another to the idea of sitting in a waiting room, waiting for our name to be called, waiting for
a loved one to return from surgery, or waiting for the results of the scan. That’s not where most of us wish to be. Nobody really wants
to be sitting in the waiting room. We don’t want to wait for that next phase in our lives. We want it now. I think that often comes from
an incorrect assumption of what waiting may look like in the life of a believer. There’s a difference between just “waiting” and “waiting
on God.” I remember reading a quote from a book long ago that said something about waiting just involving passively waiting and
wondering, hoping for something good to happen, while “waiting on God” is an active process—waiting with faith and trusting in God
and His plans, confident of purpose in the process. I could go on and on with this one. It’s the story of my life, but I’ll move on.
Temptation to Confuse Aloneness for Loneliness
Aloneness (the state of being alone) refers to physical separation from others—isolation. Loneliness, however, involves that emotional
state of being disconnected from others. As a single person, I rarely suffer from loneliness, even when I’m physically alone. Might
I also say that many of my married friends struggle regularly with loneliness? Many singles confuse the two and try to remedy the
situation by filling up their calendars and over-committing to events and engagements in an attempt to avoid loneliness. The problem
16 CAMP BIMI
of loneliness is not solved by immersing ourselves in activities. Neither is it solved by marriage. Loneliness can be conquered through a
healthy understanding of our identity in Christ, and knowing that He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Times of aloneness
are wonderful opportunities to cultivate that relationship we have with our Lord.
Married friends, take note: your single friends don’t all have that fear of being the third wheel. Invite them to the party. Go on a three person
date or a five-person date with another couple. Let them know that you accept them and their state for who God
created them to be. Single friends, sometimes you just need to be the initiator. The marrieds need a little help here,
and it may be up to you to plan the dinner or join the Sunday school class of mostly married couples (I did!).
Temptation to Over-Commit
Another potential complication with filling up our schedules is the tendency to over-commit. Sometimes we
do that to ourselves. Other times, we feel pressure from friends, family, or coworkers. How many singles have
heard, “Ask her; she doesn’t have to go home and cook for a family,” or, “Can you just see the last two patients;
my wife is waiting for me?” “You don’t have a spouse and children, so you must have time to run the diabetes
education program, right?” I think a lot of us in medicine are overachievers. We’re people pleasers. We don’t
want to have to say no because that might infer that we can’t handle something, so we say yes—to everything.
It’s a myth to assume that singles have all this free time. It’s a lie that even we singles believe. Married couples have an automatic default.
They have “valid” reasons for not committing to something. They have to spend time with their family. Might I point out that as a
single person, not only do I have all those things in life that contribute to busyness, but I have to do all the tasks by myself. I don’t have
someone else to do my laundry or to cook for me. And those relationships I commit to, it probably takes more time to develop those
since I have limited time to spend in another’s company. My “family” doesn’t necessarily live under the same roof as me.
Okay, I’m not trying to swing the pendulum the other way. I’m merely pointing out that both married people and single people have varied
challenges that contribute to the temptation to over-commit. If we’re in medicine, we’re already in a profession of caring. We’re already drained
by our work and interactions with needy people. The Fruit of the Spirit of our lives can easily start to rot, and instead of offering our patients or
our friends ripe, sweet fruits—like peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control—we instead offer impatience and coarseness.
I’ve not mastered these temptations myself, and there are many more. Again, I cannot help but notice how many of my friends in
medicine are single and struggling, and I just wanted to take the opportunity to encourage them and to let them know that I am praying
for them. Don’t wait passively for temporal fulfillment. Wait on God and learn what He desires to teach you as you serve His people.
When she wrote this article, Traci Warner was a nurse practitioner at Faith Family Medical Clinic. Appointed as a medical
missionary to the people of Nicaragua, she was raising support to transition to that full-time. Traci lives in Nicaragua and begins her
8 th year serving as a medical missionary. While waiting on the Nicaraguan government to approve a medical license, she’s continued
limited medical care there and hosted medical teams during their short term mission trips. Traci has a passion for teaching and
training and does a lot of that with pastors’ wives and other church leaders. She leads Bible studies as well. “I’m now 42 and still very
content in my singleness and in the ministries God has called me to.”
MARRIAGE AFFECTS MINISTRY – OUR STORY
Jeremiah CB I ‘07a & Lindsay Cooley
Bro. Baughman, I remember something you said to me the last day of CAMP BIMI I ‘07. As I was leaving, you shook my hand and said to
me, “Jeremiah, serve God.” That meant a lot to me and really has been a great help to me. I had every intention of continuing to serve God
as I left that day, but your words sure strengthened and encouraged me. You said it with sincerity and intensity. Thank you for the part you
have and do play in my life. I have had many doors open for me to serve God since that day in June 2007. God’s Grace has been with me
all the way and I realized that I cannot serve God in my strength. I continued to pursue God’s Direction for my paths concerning missions.
To God be the glory! The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad! Thank you for being a faithful servant of God and pouring
yourself into the lives of others!
In 2009, Lindsay prayed in very specific terms concerning a husband. “Lord, if Jeremiah is Your Will for my life, then bring us together
before the end of this year.” In her heart she believed it was God’s Will that we marry. God had put world missions in my heart, and this
caught her attention. Why was a heart for missions so important? It was important because Lindsay knew God wanted her to serve Him
as a missionary.
Meanwhile, I had been praying about a wife for some time. One evening at our home church, I noticed Lindsay walking near her car.
In that moment, God touched my heart that I should begin to pray about her. Months went by. She was still trusting God to bring us
together. Eventually, God led me to speak to her parents concerning their daughter. One Wednesday night in December, I did just that.
Lindsay’s parents shared with me that they were praying for her and me regarding marriage. Lindsay did not know this, and she also
had not yet shared with her parents that she was praying about me. God was at work in her heart, her parents’ hearts, and my heart.
Within a week, we spoke to one another about marriage. In that first conversation, I told Lindsay that before continuing, she needed
to know that God had called me to be a missionary. She responded that she was willing to go anywhere because God had called her to
I had waited on God, believing He would bring the right wife along. And when He did bring her to me, He had already prepared her
for missions. Lindsay waited on God, trusting Him to bring her a husband called to missions and He did. Eleven months later, we were
married, knowing that God had brought us together. Marriage does affect ministry! Don’t rush ahead of God.