I have talked before about vocation, but not specifically about religion. I am a middle-of-the-road Anglican who attends church regularly, but I do not constantly look at things from a religious point of view. Perhaps I am a bit like the famous scientist who forgot his religion when he went into his laboratory and forgot his science when went to church? I admire people who have a sacramental view of life, shoot off “arrow prayers” when the going gets tough, and always ask “what would Jesus do?” when hard decisions have to be made. (I wonder whether Jesus would prescribe a cheap statin to save the NHS money?) All I do is muddle along as best I can. But sometimes when sitting in church and listening to the sermon (yes, really!) it occurs to me that I must be doing God's work to some extent during the week.
We had a lovely sermon tonight, in which the priest assured us that we are unconditionally loved and forgiven by God even though we have acted badly. Indeed he feels that the liturgy has things in the wrong order – first we ought to receive God's forgiveness (the Absolution) and then we should confess our sins in wonderment and gratitude. This is a particularly Anglican way of looking at it! And I found it encouraging that he confessed to being imperfect in many ways himself. If the priest acknowledges his failings but can keep on working then so can the doctor.
Looking at the way I work I am conscious of many failings. I do not report these in my blog. I am reluctant even to admit them to myself. I have left undone those things which I ought to have done and have done those things which I ought not to have done, and there is no health in me. One small example will suffice: the other day my first patient was a woman I have seen very many times with chronic depression. I was in a rush, there were several physical problems to sort out, and I must have appeared brusque because tears appeared in her eyes. I did not stop and give her the extra five to ten minutes that would have been needed to get to the bottom of things, I just calmed her down as best I could and got on with the next appointment. She will be back no doubt, but a better doctor would have handled things differently.
On balance I suspect that keeping God in mind during every consultation would simply add to the pressure and to my sense of inadequacy. But I keep trying to do my best, and go to church on Sunday to confess that I have been far from perfect and hear those wonderful words of forgiveness. This evening I received a personal blessing from the priest which I would like to pass on to all of my readers who will not be offended by it.
May Christ bring you wholeness of body, mind and spirit, deliver you from every evil, and give you his peace. Amen.