Saturday, October 28, 2017
"Jesus knew that poverty and disease in themselves are not the hardest things for people to bear; the hardest to bear are the loneliness and the hopelessness that come with being sick or being poor."
-Shusaku Endo, A Life of Jesus
We doctors often poke fun of the visiting dog. We see the dog-lovers, obsessed with their dogs, bring them around the hospital to visit the sick. What can they do, really? Get in the way, pee on the floor.
In America, various programs offer a safety net, a help, a support, to the poor, the elderly, the sick. As I walk into the hospital every day, I am thankful that the patients can be cared with a high standard with relatively minimal restrictions due to the cost of care. More so since the Accountable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
Yet Endo reminds me of what else I see daily: chemicals and surgeries leave a large gap in care, and perhaps inadvertently contribute to it. When the care came out of love and sacrifice in the face of need in the form of a family member, a volunteer caregiver, or a nun, that love and spiritual connection was obvious. When the care comes with a paycheck as a carrot and the threat of liability as a stick, the love is not so obvious, and may be missing altogether.
Thank God for the opportunities to serve those who are suffering. For God still calls His people to love. We should learn from the service dog. Never tempted to suspend presence with the patient to mix a medication or do another x-ray, the service dog is unpretentious to the core. Perhaps if Jesus were here today, he would say: "if any would enter the kingdom of heaven, let him be like one of these service dogs." Sit with the patient. Do not try to cure them, leave that to someone else for a moment. Listen. Empathize. Lay hands on them in prayer and communion, not only to cut them open. They may not live longer because of this. But perhaps they, and us, will become more human.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Friday, October 20, 2017
Monday, October 9, 2017
Focusing on ourselves and our problems short-circuits God’s purposes for our lives. We are two wires of an electrical circuit. Put them together and we burn up in a flash. Nonetheless, our entire lives are spent finding ways to bring the wires together while avoiding damage. We try various filters, machines, and resistors so that we can finally find our “fulfillment.” All the while we ignore the directions clearly given us: “one end to God, the other to serve our brothers and sisters.”
Sunday, October 8, 2017
It seems to me that one should not endeavor to undertake ministry as a Christian worker, Christian doctor, or life itself as a Christian, without entering into the presence of God on a daily basis for serious and concentrated prayer. I find that the more I work with people, the more I must both bring to, and receive from God. It is a matter of emotional and spiritual survival to bring to the alter the people and things of the day. For if I am really ministering to people, if I am truly taking them seriously and trying to share in their joys and sorrows, they inevitably bring to me worrisome burdens, unsolvable problems, and deep and prolonged heart aches of every sort, which I then very naturally mull over and worry about. Not to mention the great landscape of bad choices that one finds people in, their houses built long ago firmly in the center of a hopeless flood plane with such little insight much less desire to move to higher ground. When I bring these people one by one to the Lord in prayer, the unbearable burden is found by an unseen assisting hand and somehow I am able to step out into the day.
Besides the people themselves, there is the very setting of ministry. Great consuming and dehumanizing political and cultural systems, deep and defining histories, overwhelming bureaucracies, endless noisy advertising, and all the world itself clamoring for the attention of anyone who will dare open his eyes for even a moment. Along this path of snakes we are called to walk as Jesus did, as his hands and feet for the world. In prayer, I find I must close my eyes to the world in order to receive that message of guidance, peace, and assignment that comes from God. If I do not daily, deeply, with structure and persistence, seek the Lord in this way, my attentions are hopelessly subject to the first minor demand made upon them in the wrong direction. Even with prayer, I daily fall to one way or another. Yet our Lord calls us sinners to go out into the invisible fields, work with tools we cannot touch or feel, and bring in a harvest of which we cannot truly taste in this world. To even attempt to do so we must daily receive redirection by blocking out what we can see, and hear the message from above.
In our struggle, God gives us His word. That which we cannot see, we are gifted to hear described. That which we cannot touch, we are told to trust Him to hold for us. And when we cannot taste those first bites from our gatherings, He gives us glimpses of His very glory in times of prayer.