In my prayers for several friends who have struggled for years and years with inability to conceive, I have often found myself at a loss as to how to approach the situation (in prayer and attempts to encourage these individuals). This morning, I heard a Focus on the Family discussion on infertility, and was surprised to hear that much of what people say in these situations is not only unhelpful, but often extremely hurtful.
We want to point people to God, to His faithfulness, and to His sovereignty. But if we are unwilling to sit in silence beside them, we are worse than Job’s “friends”. It is easy for us who are not struggling with an issue to point out the need to turn to the Lord. But this actually draws attention to an apparent “lack of faith” in individuals who already feel disenfranchised. It is worse than one-upping, because it simultaneously points to a problem the speaker doesn’t have and to a solution the hearer seemingly can’t access. It is the ultimate self-righteousness.
We must suffer beside someone in silence before we earn the right to lecture him or her with solutions that cost us nothing. I am glad I heard the words of these women. I hope they will remind me, in the future, to empathize before I attempt to teach a lesson I haven’t had to learn.
Every so often I notice a gnawing sense if entitlement gripping my heart. Like on Saturday morning when the vast majority of people are catching up on their errands and I find myself racing off to yet another day of work, trying to finish three loads of laundry befoere I leave. But today I realized: I am only entitled to the life God gave me. And I am responsible to live it well — Saturday employment not withstanding.
Residency is being told you’re skinny by patients and smiling while thinking its because you’re too busy refilling their moisturizer prescriptions to eat. It is missing big events like your best friend’s baby shower and your family leaving for Africa. It is not having a moment to yourself from dawn to dusk, except the mad car ride between locations or the sprint from the parking lot a mile away. It is needing Monistat for four days, being willing to pay full price without a prescription, and still not having it but making time to call pharmacies for patients to get free Tylenol. It is considering three types of granola bars a day’s balanced diet. It is knowing you are a complainer, and not having the energy to hold your words in. It is being insanely jealous of your friends who are teachers or pharmacists, and have time to breathe. It is beating your body into submission and wondering why it is hard to find compassion for hangnails. It is spending all your phone plan minutes on people you’ve never met who don’t have any serious complaints, so you can’t talk to the people closest to your heart who are sincerely struggling. It is laughing on the inside as you advise patients not to make caffeine a food group. It is hoping that at least one person, one day, will appreciate what you gave up to be their doctor.
As Christians, our first and greatest job description is worship. Not climbing the corporate ladder or propagating the lies of materialism. We are not here to make much of ourselves, or even of those we love on this earth. We are here to make much of God, and to help others learn to do the same.
He is our peace.
My aunt glanced sideway at me from the driver’s seat.
“What would you do for a living if you didn’t get paid to do it?”
I laughed. “That’s a silly question. I’d have to get paid, or else I wouldn’t survive long doing anything. I have to eat”
She shook her head. “No truly, that’s what people say you should do. Find the thing you would do anyway, and do it for a living.”
“But that’s such a strange way to live life. We get paid to work because it’s work. Something we don’t want to do. We pay to do things we want to do.”
She sighed. “Well, what would you do anyway? In addition to working, then.”
Basically, she was saying: if you can’t answer an either-or question, answer a both-and question. That I could do. I’ve only ever made changes in my life by adding, rather than subtracting.
I responded promptly, ”Write. I would write. I have to write; there are so many ideas to share.”
And I knew then it was true. The only times I feel alive in my current career are when I steal time from sleep, from self-care (i.e. blowdrying my hair) or eating to write. Writing makes me feel close to God — because, I think it’s what He made me to do.