When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? ~ John 5:6, KJV
“To make man whole” is the well-known motto of Loma Linda University. The key concept of achieving wholeness is spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical realms is taught to students, patients, and guests. Recently, I was reflecting on this notion and recalled two situations that occurred while I was in medical school.
As a third-year medical student, one of my rotations had devotional time set aside every morning for the staff to meditate on a brief thought presented by the chaplain. Something about that seemed interesting to me, but I didn’t understand what it was or why. The second situation occurred when I was a fourth-year student when one of my electives was whole-person care. One “assignment” was to set aside some time just for myself. Interestingly, this was one of the hardest assignments during that rotation. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I would go. Then I started thinking that this was going to take a lot of effort and time, and what was the point anyway?
I ended up going to Oak Glen, California – a quiet area not too far from campus – and spending time there in the crisp mountain air, in the silence of a little park I found. Time seemed to slow down and pass by intentionally. It was difficult to be there and be still. My mind was elsewhere, thinking of other things that I could be doing, and how long would I have to stay there to satisfy the requirement. After about thirty-to-forty minutes, I headed back. Even though my experience was somewhat sabotaged by my own distracting thoughts, as I drove down the mountain, I was refreshed and surprised that I had benefited from my time in Oak Glen.
Now, as a resident, I think back to these experiences and realize the importance of wholeness. Many times in the medical profession, we tell our patients to eat right, exercise, find ways to reduce stress, etc.; but how much of our own advice do we also follow? Doctors and healthcare providers in general are notorious for missing sleep, skipping meals, and disregarding exercise or time for reflection on spiritual themes. What was striking to me about the above experiences was that we had been encouraged to take care of our own needs, too, and were taught that it was okay to do so. “Time out” was not selfish or self-centered; it was healthy.
It is interesting to note that Jesus also took time to take care of Himself. Of course, He spent a significant amount of time meeting the needs of others by preaching, healing, and teaching. Yet, He would find time for communion with His Father. He recharged Himself. He spent time with His family, with His disciples. He worked as a carpenter, which likely afforded him adequate exercise. If Jesus is the example that we should follow, then we should also follow His footsteps in pursuit of wholeness. He implores us: “Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:6, KJV).
–Ana Gomez, LLUSM class of 2007, is a resident in psychiatry at University of Louisville Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. She is a deferred faculty appointee.