Of Him who shows mercy

February 11th will forever be noted on my calendar as my dad’s new birthday.

The verse that came to me was Romans 9:16 — “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”

In the past 10 years, I’ve undergone various phases of suffering, praying, indifference, fighting, wishing, hating,… Before 2010, I willed him to get saved so I could get baptized. After 2010, I willed him to get saved so I could go to the FTT. During the FTT, I ran with my team, my house, my prayer companions, my trainer to hasten his salvation so I could stay a second year.

His baptism was of none of that. It was of God who shows mercy.

How can I say that so assuredly? Because I had no expectation, no hope, no thought of it. It was a gospel meeting (and his first, now that I think about it), yes, but he had declined baptism so many times before that it just ceased to be on my radar. Plus I was busy praying for my coworker to be open to salvation.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts…” – Isaiah 55:8

Now I finally know what this first part of this oft-recited verse means.

I guess I still don’t have the full utterance for the enormity of what had happened. In immediate terms, it proved the Spirit’s ability to convict and move man’s heart; it testified to the universe that “the Lord hath won; at length he yielded”; it put God’s enemy to open shame. In the larger view of things, it answered the prayers of so many burdened for my family over the years; it manifested some of the Lord’s hidden operation throughout the GTCA; it added some nuance to the “why” of my not being able to finish the FTT; it was the impossible (to me and my mom) made possible.

What else is there to say?

But to Him who is able to do superabundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power which operates in us,
To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all the generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20

I didn’t even think of it, let alone ask. This superabundantly above way is God’s way. And I worship and exalt Him.

Along similar lines, my takeaways from the overflow meeting:

“For the country girl to become the Shulammite was Solomon’s doing.”Lee, Crystallization-Study of the Song of Songs, Message 12

Of Him, not of me. His doing, not mine. Isn’t that so much better, so much safer? I have a new appreciation of the classic banner song:

As we become the same as Christ,
In life, nature, expression, and function;
We are qualified to work with Him for His Body.

As we trust in the Lord helplessly,
Depend on Him as our love and strength
And listen to His speaking
Our hope is to be raptured through the redemption of our body.

(tune here)

And, finally, what br RL shared:

“…we do not know what to do; but our eyes are upon You.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12

Lord, my eyes are upon You.

The cleft of the rock

Suppose I am staying with two brothers. To live together is wonderful, but sometimes it is also horrible. They have their personality and natural make-up, and I have mine. We are all different. Suppose my personality offends this brother’s personality. What shall  he do? He must say, “O Lord Jesus, keep me in the cleft of the rock; keep me at the cross.” By this the Lord will be bale to work something into him. In all our different situations, we must stay in the cleft of the rock. “O Lord Jesus, I am crucified with You.” To be crucified with Christ on the cross is to stay in the cleft of the rock.

Life & Building in the Song of Songs, page 53

This portion became all too real to me yesterday. Long story short, I got pretty upset at C because: first, she neglected for 2 weeks to do what we had all agreed to do; then, she calls home and reports that we have no obligation to take care of the landlord in our position as student-tenants; third, she never even seriously prayed about this, in the whole 3 weeks that she had; fourth,……

I could probably list a couple more things, but that’s obviously not the point here. The point is, I got upset enough that I couldn’t entirely maintain my civility and basically ended up walking out of the room on C and R. Of course I regretted it even as I was doing it, but it was already too late. It took me probably 2 hours to fall asleep afterward…

Through this, my realization was basically this: I need to be crossed out. The I that lost composure and the I that usually manages to keep composed.The I that got upset over how petty C and her family are and the I that believes it’s only right to pay a little more. The I that failed to care for the oneness above everything else and the I that often contrives “oneness” by human diplomacy.

After an apology on my part this morning, all four of us prayed together after dinner. I probably would normally have said something after praying, but I just had the sense from the Lord: you let Me take care of this. So amen, Lord, I just let this go. I let it out of my hands. You take over. Whatever the outcome, You know how to keep the oneness. Carry out more of Your dispensing, transforming, burning, saturating in all of us through this experience. Burn away everything that’s not You — until there’s electrum and four living creatures.

Reflecting on my SP interview

The Communication Skills course got really tough really fast.

Our first round of interviews were with volunteer (real) patients, who were happy to engage with us in the name of education. They were, in brief, cooperative.

Not so with the second round. Simulated patients (SP) are a whole different breed.

I was third up for the day. I had watched 6 of my peers in their interviews and had been relatively critical of most of them. Most of them involved discovering an underlying problem that isn’t immediately obvious from the patient’s presenting illness. Little did I know that I would get the hardest case of all.

Instead of knocks on the door, there were 2 kicks. I shoved down my ominous feeling and went ahead to open the door. In hindsight, it may have helped to take a deep breath and remember what I was doing the interview for — practice and not perfection.

Crystal was an angry 17-year-old who had something dismissive and impolite to reply for everything I said. At first, I tried the “soft-on-hard” approach, with smiles for her glares. When she didn’t warm up, I gave up and auto-piloted to a “hard-on-hard” attitude, which pretty much always results in a “lose-lose” situation. So the interview went on, and I found myself struggling with what to say to this uncooperative subject, ended up asking some probably-irrelevant questions about her asthma, and concluded the interview just around the 10-minute mark (3 minutes early).

When my debrief facilitator asked me, “How do you think that went?”, I tried to be self-reflective. I said something like, “Because she was angry, I reacted by withdrawing and adopting a similarly disinterested tone.” What I wanted to add was, “She was just a difficult patient; I don’t see how that could have gone better.” I don’t mean that in a self-justifying way; at that moment, perhaps partially because of shock, I honestly couldn’t pinpoint what could have made that go better.

Then our tutor said something that was like a sword through my soul. Something to this effect:

We have to remember that we’re there to help. Crystal is struggling with everything in her life. She’s just 17. Yes, she’s angry, but she’s also vulnerable. She needs someone on her side.

That’s when I started to get really flushed and a little teary. Not because I couldn’t take a little constructive criticism, mind you. The thought just exploded in my head that I had let a poor teenager-who-copes-with-the-stresses-in-her-life-by-putting-up-a-tough-front-but-who-beneath-it-all-is-seeking-support-and-care-and-maybe-secretly-hopes-that-this-doc (student)-might-finally-be-different go disappointed.I had let her down. I had contributed to the helplessness that had been piled up on her.

You might be saying, “Calm down; she was just acting.” But I think that was literally the most epiphanic moment in my medical education thus far. I suddenly saw the very real need to be more mature — mature enough to not take personal offence when a patient’s anger seems targeted at me; mature enough to not let my own emotions blind me to a patient’s true need; mature enough to be in the profession with the genuine intention to help.

So, I learned a lot, and I have a lot to learn. Here’s to a journey of learning and making mistakes and reflecting and improving and growing into that model of “relationship-centered care”.

Knowing, worshipping, and vindicating God’s ways

This matter of knowing God’s ways has really been on my heart since May. Whether it’s from the angle of recognizing that God’s ways are higher than my ways (Isa. 55:8), from the angle of not only hearing of God but also seeing God (Job 42:5), from the angle of knowing not just God’s acts but knowing His ways (Psa. 103:7), from the angle of realizing that He’s the Potter and I’m the clay (Rom.9:20-21), or from the angle of knowing God not only as the Father but as God, this has been the Lord’s speaking to me over these few months. 

The next bit has a lot of quotations from the booklet “Worshipping the Ways of God” by Watchman Nee, but I’ve incorporated them into my stream of consciousness rather than putting them in quotation marks.

God’s ways are simply the choices He makes concerning us. He has His own ordinations, and there is no room for our choice. He deals with this person in this manner and with another person in that manner. He wants us to encounter this circumstance but not that one. 

When we pray in a certain direction — as I did 2 weeks ago — and the Lord says “no”, it’s not necessarily because that prayer was wrong, not necessarily because God is unhappy at us… It’s simply that God made a choice concerning that matter. It doesn’t matter how it affects us or what we want! His decision is made, but it’s up to us to accept and even embrace that decision. Knowing God and knowing His ways means that we fall before Him and say, “Everything You have done is right. You are never wrong.” Then we can vindicate our God before His enemy: “I don’t know why this is happening, but I worship God because He is still God. He has an eternal purpose, and He knows how best to accomplish it. I worship Him for what He is pleased to do in me. I worship God for the things He strips from me. His ways are not only good but perfect. I have no advice to give the sovereign God.”