This month’s blog series seeks to address the struggle so many of us feel in connecting our workplace lives to our walk with Christ. Pacific Crossroads Church has partnered with PCC members Steve and Margaret Lindsey to start an exciting new project called the Center for Faith + Work Los Angeles to minister to this need. The center will launch this month and the 1st Annual Conference is Saturday April 1st. You can find out more and register for the event by clicking www.faithandworkLA.com.
A few months ago, I was on the phone with a customer service agent for my cable company. To pass the time, the agent asked, “So what do you do for a living?”
“I’m an ER doc,” I replied.
She then paused, and apologetically whispered, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
I seem to get that response from just about anyone who asks, but the job is not all bad. It is a privilege to participate in God’s work of bringing the chaos of post-Eden existence back to wholeness and peace: setting broken bones in place, quieting the ravages of an infection on a body, reversing the course of heart attacks and strokes.
Yet, the job takes its toll.
“Hey doc, your first patient is an 85 year old male here for altered mental status. We don’t have any information about him other than that he became confused and vomited an hour ago.” It could be a head bleed. We need to check a sugar level and get him to the scanner. What’s his code status? Is his family coming? No time, get him to CT. “Doc you have a patient in room 16. She’s a 75 year old female with blood in her stool. She feels weak and dizzy.” The most common cause of her bleed would be the colon, not to mention the blood thinners she’s on. What’s her blood pressure? Low. She’s going to need a blood transfusion. I’ve got to keep a close eye on her. “Doc you have a patient in room 43, a 3 year old boy who ran into a coffee table and has a laceration on his forehead.” Sigh. Why do boys love running into coffee tables and cutting their foreheads? He’s screaming so loud I can hardly think. His parents are debating and now arguing if they’re ok with him getting stitches. I’m going to have to come back. Is that CT scan back yet? What’s the blood count for the bleeder? “Hey doc, your patient in 3 wants to talk to you. He’s wondering why he’s not getting a MRI today, because he looked up on Google…” Sigh. I was just there and explained in length. “Hey doc, that patient in hallway G is getting agitated and wants Ativan because she thinks she’s in alcohol withdrawal.” Sigh. “Hey doc, can you write a work note for room 9?” Sigh. Yes, but not right now. “Hey doc, the parents of the kid with the forehead laceration are wondering why you haven’t sutured it yet.”
Sighs are the sound a soul makes when it’s pressed and squeezed by the day’s trials. Sighs are the brain’s reminder to the lungs, “You haven’t taken a deep breath in a while and we’d really appreciate the oxygen up here.” Sighs are the sound the Israelites collectively exhaled when they heard from Pharaoh what many of us hear in our work, “Work is hard? Too bad. Now do more, with less.” (Exodus 5:7-8)
Work existed in Eden before the fall (Genesis 1:26, 28) and therefore work itself is not a curse. Yet it sure feels like one. Not only that, when the shift gets busy and stress increases, so does my irritability, impatience and anger. Complaints rise and cynicism grows. By the end of a 12 hour shift, my mind and soul are drowning in toxicity. Burnout lurks right around the corner. So what’s a doc to do?
Rankin once spoke on how the pressures of life reveal our true selves – “When you squeeze a toothpaste tube, toothpaste comes out.” Stress reveals who I am. The difficulties from my job don’t make me impatient, unkind and angry, they show me that I am those things. Ouch. That’s hard to accept. Yet, the gospel is first bad news about self, before it is good news about what God has done.
As I continued to process these thoughts, shift after shift, I stopped blaming my job for my anger. Instead, I started to ask my community group for prayer. I confessed to close brothers how embarrassingly deep my sins run. Through gospel community, I began to see in my own context, that God was using my most difficult days for my good (Romans 8:28). Like a construction excavator, with each trial, God was taking a deep scoop out of my self-reliance, creating more space for his grace to fill.
As I’ve started to see that in my very trials, God was not punishing me, but rather teaching me to sing, “Lord, I need you, oh I need you, every hour I need you,” I’ve learned to receive the grace portioned for that day (Exodus 16:15-16), especially on days that I fail. From that fullness, though I work in the chaos, I begin to find my purpose aligning with his – not working for a paycheck, or because I see work as a necessary evil, but for his purpose – to use my time, talents and energy to share the grace that I’ve been so richly given.
What grace indeed.