Julia and I have paused to give thanks.
The context was the Pulmonary Unit of Albany Medical Center this past week. There, in Room E522, Julia was getting blasted with steroids and antibiotics to treat a recent exacerbation of the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis attacking her lungs. Doctors, nurses, patient techs, and other supporting staff kept coming and going. All were notably caring, humble, diligent, knowledgeable, good team players, and extremely patient with hallways and rooms full of equipment and people. There were doctors: Marc Judson, Anupama Tiwari, Thomas Smith, and Nancy Knudsen. There were nurses Alan and Joy (recent immigrants from the Philippines), Courtney (who has a dog named Cookie), Mike, Natasha, Shari, Mark, and Nordic. There was Mike, who made sure Julia had oxygen to go home with. There were several others whose names escape me, but inescapable was there compassionate consideration and service to Julia, and me.
Where did their compassionate care come from? How is it that such a secular environment can become the loving hands and voices of Jesus Christ to us?
Perhaps it starts with the basic stuff of our creation that bears an image of the Lord Himself. He is immediately, powerfully and personally involved with each of us out of a pure heart filled with the most amazing and merciful compassion (Matthew 5:44-45, James 5:11, Psalm 111:4, 145:8-9). There’s no question that in general our spiritual lives have been destroyed by self-reliance and self-admiration, but behind it all is the basic stuff of creation: a full complement of emotions that can respond either in self-serving or other-serving ways, an awareness of others and the importance of relationships whether for good or evil, and the ability to focus intellectually and purposefully on a course of action. All these gifts pointing back to our Creator were in full display at AMC this past week.
And yet, there’s more. As we prayerfully, with faith, went through that experience we sensed that God was stirring up or strengthening compassionate care for us. Smiles, gentle touches, gracious words, conscientious efforts to do thing right might be the caring goals for each patient there, yet we took note of how easily and consistently those gifts flowed toward us. The hospital staff weren’t compelled to be warm-hearted healers, but were. They could have simply kept their distance emotionally and done their jobs, but didn’t.
Perhaps the care we received was a response to God’s presence in our lives. Because He’s been working in our lives and on our hearts for so long, we hope that his loving, forgiving heart shows through and invites a good response from others. Yet, somehow that doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation for what happened. The only explanation that satisfies our hearts is receiving their caring attentions as sacred gifts.
Heavenly Father, we thank you!
“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.” James 1:17-18 (MSG)