Then there are the Fellows. Notice, that is a capital “F.” I have not quite figured out the whole hierarchy, but these seem to be young doctors who have finished medical school, and are now attached, almost literally, to an older, experienced doctor for a year or so before they go out on their own. I met the latest Fellow a few weeks ago. I go in fairly often—often enough that even the cleaning lady recognizes and greets me. Since it was our first time together, he got to do the initial work-up himself. He tried reading the chart, but my doctor has notoriously bad handwriting, even worse than most doctors—he obviously aced the bad handwriting class that med schools seem to require all doctors to take. The pharmacy regularly has to call the office to find out what he prescribed, and that’s his good handwriting.
Since this Fellow was having such a tough time of it, I just started talking. He shut the file and listened, and then asked quite a few questions. I have learned more about eyes than I ever hoped to know, including anterior chambers, corneal depths, iris prolapses, capsular tension rings, and zonules. The look he gave me was half surprise and half amusement. Before we were through he said, “In your next life you will be an ophthalmologist.”
Opportunity knocked and I was totally oblivious. Let me describe this young doctor and see if you miss it, too. He was medium height, about five-nine, slim build, probably one-sixty. His hair was dark, with heavy eyebrows, his face square and his skin dark as well. His name was Indian, as in Gandhi, not Geronimo. The University of Florida is nothing if not a melting pot. Now think back to what he said. “In your next life…” Even if he no longer believes in his native country’s faith, his culture was showing: reincarnation. About 6
hours later, I realized what I should have said: “In my next life, I won’t need
an ophthalmologist.” Here he was, so imbued in his own culture’s faith that such a statement would pop out of him, and I, supposedly imbued in mine, missed a golden opportunity to reaffirm what I know to be true.
What do I do? I blame it on my slow mind. I’m getting older, you see, and don’t think as quickly as I used to. Nonsense! I had that problem twenty years ago, too. “Old” has nothing to do with it. What has everything to do with it, is a focus on the here and now, rather than on the eternal. I was too concerned about what the doctor would tell me about this life to see what I might be able to do about the next one. I was too concerned with my physical fate and not concerned at all with the spiritual fate of another.
A few months ago, I did a little study on spiritual immaturity. Do you know what the apostle Paul equates that with? Carnality. Walking after the manner of men, 1 Cor 3. Thinking more about the physical than the spiritual, more about this life than the eternal life to come. As I get more and more mature in Christ, this life should be less and less on my mind. It should be easier to think of the “right” thing to say, not harder. Have I not gotten any better at all?
Well, yes, I am some better. I do not rail at God about this illness. I do not ask him, why me? I don’t whine--well, not very often anyway. And just when I think I have accomplished something, the Lord sends me a wake-up call. What I don’t do is not even half of it. My faith should be a positive thing, not a negative thing. Here I had a chance to sow a seed, however small, and I stumbled in what might have been freshly plowed ground and fell flat on my face.
I can hear some saying, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You have serious issues to deal with in your life right now.” Didn’t Paul have serious issues when he was beaten and thrown into prison? But didn’t he sing God’s praises and preach to whoever would listen while he was there? Isn’t his focus on the spiritual the reason he was able to say I have learned in whatever state I am to be content, Phil 4:11? How else do you handle beatings that flay you open to the bone, stoning, shipwrecks, and betrayal by so-called brethren, to the point of rejoicing that those traitors were preaching the gospel, 1:15-18?
And what shall I more say? for the time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah; of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens. Women received their dead by a resurrection: and others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword: they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves, and the holes of the earth. And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Heb 11:32-40.
All of these folks, some of whose names are not even recorded for us, like their father Abraham, desired a better country, v16, [greeting it] from afar, v13. And because of that focus on a spiritual life, they were able to meet the challenges of the physical.
Yes, I will see this young man again, probably many times. But I may never again get that golden an opportunity to make a comment that might make him think. But at least next time, I will be listening for the knock.
Are you listening?