Only in this way could be set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying~Hebrews 2:15

The first time I witnessed a code blue was during my third year of medical school. That day started by first meeting the patient in the emergency department, where he was transferred shortly to the intensive care unit (ICU). By the time I reached the ICU, they were already looking down his esophagus, staring at an ulcer bleeding uncontrollably. There was nothing they could do.

I watched as the heart rate went from 180 to 30 within just two minutes, and then the code was called. The medical team went through the motions of the code: administer chest compressions, give epinephrine, check the pulse, and continue chest compressions. No one expected anything, but this continued for several minutes-as a courtesy, and out of respect for the life that was leaving them. Finally, the code was stopped.

It was also the first time I watched someone die. My senior resident demanded the history and physical, and I, in a daze, said that I would go work on it. When she asked what was wrong, I murmured, “Nothing.”

As I walked down the hall to the call room I thought about death. I had a distinct feeling of helplessness. The emotion reminded me of something, and then I realized it was the same feeling I had before a test that I was not sure I was going to pass. And just as I would study frantically and do everything I could to prepare myself for a major exam, I wondered if I was prepared for the “ultimate test”-the one that would eventually come-the one that had come for this man as I watched.

Would I pass that test? Had I done enough? No, I knew I could not pass, based on what I have done. But did I believe enough? What if my doctrine was wrong? Perhaps I had not read the Bible in detail and missed some crucial point necessary for my salvation. Maybe I did not really believe, but only thought I believed. What if I had been deceiving myself this whole time, and would only discover it when it was too late?

As I, in a short time, began to drown in my doubt, and give up any hope of ever surviving that judgement which comes with death, I, in the strangest of places, suddenly found comfort: I could not pass that test. I have nothing to offer God. All of my “studying”, all of my efforts, all of my reasoning and searching for truth, and even my confessions and beliefs, fall short of the glory of God. When I come to the bargaining table with God, I have nothing, I have no chips with which to make a deal. All I have is His grace.

That was when this verse came to mind: “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8, NKJV). From early in life, I had read that verse many times, studied it, memorized it, and believed I understood it. But when the weight of existence pressed hard on me, and I watched that man pass from life to death before my eyes, it forced me to consider death deeper than I ever had before. I finally realized that it was not just my deeds that are lacking in God’s sight, but all that I am; and yet, it is precisely all of me that He forgives and desires.

-Aaron Branch, LLUSM class of 2011, is family medicine resident in Tulsa, Oklahoma.