It was only 8:45 in the morning and I was ready to go home and call it a day. I had heard many stories in my years of practice as a physician but this one hit me right where I live—it hit me as a parent. Sitting hunched over on the examination table was a young mother of four—no three children. She had been changed forever, and after hearing her story I would be changed forever too.
“My kids were swimming. We’d just put in a new pool. I went inside. I didn’t leave my little girl alone. I knew there were big kids out there to help keep the little ones under control. Weren’t they watching? Where did they go?
“I am going back outside now. I need to check on Lindsay. She is….was…only two. I don’t see anyone. My heart is racing. Everything is blurry, spinning out of control. Where did everyone go? I look over and see my kids underneath a tent made from their towels. There they are! I look again. Where is Lindsay? Where is Lindsay? Where is Lindsay? They all just stare back at me. No words. They just keep staring at me.
I look out across the yard. I don't dare look in the pool. I don’t see her anywhere. No! No! No! I look down across the water and I see…bubbles…bubbles…bubbles… I am screaming. I am completely out of control. No one can help me. No one. I don’t know why my family wants me to see you.”
She was right. I had never felt more helpless in all my life. What could I possibly do for her? Medicine would only numb the pain, not heal it. My words would only serve to make me feel as if I’d been of any help to her at all. Some great physician I am.
I let my words be few. I went ahead and prescribed some medication. Who wouldn’t want to be numb after such a loss? It was the least-- no it was the most-- I could do. I remember thinking, “This is it. I’m done. I’m going home and I’m not coming back. This world is out of control with evil and pain and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Before I left the office I ran into a colleague of mine. I told him about my patient and how inept I felt. I couldn’t keep the tears from forming-- and then from falling-- down my face. How unprofessional. Boy was I going to hear it from him. I could already hear his words ringing in my head:
“As a physician you need to keep better boundaries. You can’t let emotions get in the way of treatment. Keep your distance. They are the patients and we are the physicians. If you allow their pain to enter into your life, you will not be able to be of optimal assistance. You’ll no longer have the control required of a physician. You got too close. That’s her burden, not yours.”
I waited for the salty response that was sure to be rubbed into my open wounds. His words caught me off guard. His words pushed me gently into a pool of cool water.
“Do you believe God is sovereign?”
I stared back at him. Like the children, I had no words. His question had pulled me down into the deep end of my faith and had left me speechless. His question drowned out the ringing in my head, drowned out my doubt and most of all drowned my pride. Bubbles…bubbles….bubbles…I could feel myself give way to the sovereignty of God, my God who is forever in control over all creation—no matter how deep the waters, no matter how high the waves of grief.
I changed my mind about going home. I realized I still had control over my own choices. I turned around and went into my next patient’s room. I left my need to be in control at the bottom of the pool. Somehow I felt stronger, more confident in who I am as a child of God and as His instrument of healing.
I am not the one who heals all wounds. I am not the great physician. But I choose to serve the Sovereign God who is.
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