Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
(Colossians 4:6, NIV)
As a first-year medical student, I continue to discover the staggering complexity of the world for which I am being prepared. Every concept I learn seems riddled with layers of intricacy that never fail to confound my desire to understand. During my first weeks on the wards, I was consistently struck by the innumerable subtleties that colored every patient-doctor interaction –events that would happen even before being
muddled by the science itself, even before the translation into layman’s terms, even before the translation between languages! Everything I witnessed seemed to be entangled in a flurry of co-factors that always left me wondering if I would ever see a simple solution again.
The vision I had for myself as a Christian physician only added to the burden created by my chosen profession’s romance with complexity. Finding a basis for interacting with people about my faith had never been easy, but now it seemed absurdly complicated. How could I find a way to allow my faith to shine through in the midst of a barrage of distraction? Would I even find an ethical way to offer patients the chance to see what Christ had done for me?
My chance came one Friday afternoon in a whole-person care practicum during an exercise to learn how to address patients’ spiritual needs in the midst of illness. The exercise consisted of asking patients a few simple questions regarding their experiences and allowing conversations to run their course. When I entered the room of the patient I was to interview, I found David– a tough-looking, 30-something-year-old man from Los Angeles, California, who had undergone major surgery. After introducing myself and chatting lightly, I inquired if I could ask him a few questions about his spirituality.
He agreed, and I quickly learned that his experience with God had been very limited and poignantly ugly. The only man David knew who had converted to Christianity had ceased to be his friend. Not only that, but that same man’s wife had left him for their new pastor. I asked David how these two experiences with Christianity had affected the way he saw God. He pondered momentarily before answering, “Man, you guys are doctors and you care about God?” I was struck by the simplicity and the depth of what had impressed him: not that I had imparted any theological truth or compelling testimony but simply that God mattered to me at all.
David showed me the simple answer to the question I had thought so profoundly complicated. By allowing God to factor into our interaction, I demonstrated that God matters to me, and that talking about Him is part of being healed completely. While my experience with David didn’t lead to his conversion or even an outward expression of openness toward God, I was left with the meaningful impression that if we, as clinicians and caregivers, can find a way for our interactions to include open-ended conversations about God, then we open the door to the deepest facet of patients’ well-being as we offer them the opportunity to see Him as their healer.
– Nathan Blue, LLUSM class of 2011