The room was cold -- so cold that my legs, pressed against the hard metal of the examining table, felt bone-chilled, as if I had fallen on a sheet of ice and lay there, helpless. It seemed as if I had been waiting a lifetime for him to come. No matter. I would have endured any wait to be rid of the agonizing pain, so unbearable that I could scarcely breathe.
I waited a few more minutes before he strode into the room, looking knowledgeable and confident in his white lab coat. “Hello, Miss ... umm ... ” He paused, peering over his horn-rimmed glasses at the papers, which I assumed to be my official record, in his hand. He did not find what he was looking for, apparently, for he continued without saying my name. “Hello ... ahh ... young lady.” He coughed gently.
“Doctor, what’s wrong with me? I’m sorry to be impatient, but I’m in so much pain, you see. What’s the matter? How do we fix it?”
He glanced in my direction, then at the record. “Well, there’s good news. We’ve reviewed your lab tests and physical examination, and we’ve identified the problem.”
Thank God, I thought. “What is it?” I asked anxiously.
“I’m not going to tell you.”
I thought perhaps I’d misheard. “What ... You’re not going to ...”
“Tell you. Right.”
I paused a moment. It was hard to think clearly, but I had to. It was my only chance to be rid of the pain. “Let me get this straight. You know what’s wrong.”
“And you know how to fix it.”
“But you’re not going to tell me.”
I shook my head incredulously. “Why on earth not?”
He peered over his glasses again. “Well, you see, at this clinic we respect our patients. We believe that the source of each person’s healing lies within himself. So, we encourage you to find your own personal solutions to your health problems. After all, you’re an intelligent woman. We can’t ask you to just check your brains at the door when you come in here, now, can we?”
“But ... I need help.”
“Of course. We’re here to help you. And we do that best by encouraging you to heal yourself.” He smiled, bemused at my ignorance. “Telling you what to do – well, that’s dangerous thinking, isn’t it? I mean, what if you have a solution that’s better than ours? There are many paths to healing, you know.”
“But what about your patients? Don’t you have an obligation to tell them the truth? To share what you know?”
He laughed heartily. “Oh, my!” His tone became soothing, as if speaking to a small child. “If we actually told our patients what was wrong with them, why, we’d offend them. Or frighten them. Pretty soon no one would come here at all. And then where would we be? Where would our patients be? We wouldn’t be here to help them. Or you! No, no, this is the best way.”
The pain was full bore now, pounding like a hammer driving a nail into the center of my heart. “But ... but ...” I stammered, “I was told – directly told, mind you, by my friend Luke - that the Great Physician founded this clinic, and sacrificed a lot to do it. Luke said that everyone who works here is under orders to heal, and you’ve all been given a detailed instruction manual to guide you. Have you ... lost your copy of the manual?”
“The manual?” He looked startled. “We don’t – now, look here, miss, this is a business. Businesses have to grow. Simple fact of life.”
I was angry now. “Can’t you see that my life is at stake?”
“I’ve explained it in the only way I can.” He spoke gently. “You’re looking for easy answers. I don’t have any. But,” he added with brisk efficiency, “I’ve studied it a lot longer than you. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
He strode dismissively toward the door. “Have a good day. I wish you well.”
“’Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ says the Lord ... 'You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. ... I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, says the Lord.’” Jeremiah 23:1,2,4 (RSV).
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