Theology in the unlikely places

As much as I would like to lose my pager…

“Serve the Lord with gladness!” Psalms 100:2

124206023It was 4:30 am. The trauma pager started beeping.  The blinking display read “Level 1 trauma: 35 year old male with gunshot to the chest. ED Room 2”. And that was my 16th surgical consult from the ER that day. By then I have worked for 23 hours straight, skipped two meals and had three dictations pending and a whole list of patients to round on before 7 am.  My response to that page at that moment was apathy.  With physical and mental exhaustion, my mode of operation was survival. Not service.
Later that morning after I silenced my pager, threw it on the floor and closed the curtains in my room to sleep, I doubted if residency would even qualify as ‘serving the Lord’.  I wouldn’t doubt that I was serving the Lord if I had crossed the ocean and did the same job in Malawi. Why could I not be serving the Lord in Michigan? I could look at my job as a means to earn a living and nothing more.  But that would be a tunneled view to look at jobs in general. In some ways we all are given certain tasks to serve fellow human beings in the society and through that we serve the Lord.  The society may value certain jobs more than the other but heaven doesn’t. The question is, do we see our daily activities as service to the Lord? And if we did, how would that change our outlook on the many mundane tasks we perform everyday?
When I sat in that wooden church in Nicaragua years ago and decided that I wanted to serve as a medical missionary, I didn’t know what I was signing up for. Even when I took the physician’s oath in medical school, I didn’t truly understand the cost of service.  Let’s just say that I’ve had my rude awakening.  If serving the Lord is all about serving fellow humans, it is draining and downright exhausting. The psalmist wants us to do it with gladness and he is not mocking. For some of us it’s an annoying sibling, a grumpy coworker, a struggling fellow student or an angry customer.  For me, it’s an emergency pager. When it goes off, someone is in dire need. I could either show up grumpy or with a smile on my face.

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