God causes the growth

2 weeks ago, CH received the Lord at PS’s place — the 2nd time I brought him there. I really considered it sovereign of the Lord to remind me out of the blue to contact this classmate. Not knowing how to take care of this “newborn” but wanting to practice one-on-one nourishing, I began to send him a paragraph from the HWMR “Topics for New Believers” every morning. Over the past weekend, however, he said that he’s “not that into this stuff”. I guess that broke my heart a little, despite my knowing in theory and from experience that new ones aren’t generally born with big appetites.

PS’s fellowship with me over the phone was basically to take all pressure off. If he’s hungry, that’s the Lord’s mercy, and we do our part to feed. If he’s not right now, there’s no pressure. Don’t put a time limit on someone’s growth — e.g. “before I head to the Training”. We can’t cause the growth. Let the Lord do it.

That was a hard word to take because it savoured so much of passivity. But I needed the reminder — that “it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Lord, I honour and worship You as the Selector. It’s purely of Your mercy that I seek You, love You. Save me from overstepping Your sovereignty. I ask for Your mercy on these ones You’ve put around me — have mercy on them even as Your mercy reached me.

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Seigneur, Tu n’as jamais tort

Il y a deux jours que frère PD m’a envoyé un texto étrange, en chinois et avec mon surnom bête, demandant de me parler. J’ai anticipé quelque chose à propos du sujet qu’on a discuté en décembre 2016, mais j’ai anticipé quelque chose de positive parce qu’il n’y a pas de besoin de m’informer d’une mauvaise nouvelle…

J’ai agréé à parler à 19h00 hier, quand la réunion à maison a lieu. Le moment où j’ai entendu son voix, j’ai compris que c’était de mauvaise nouvelle. Il parlait lentement, comme pour m’entendre pleurer. En ce moment-là, j’ai senti de divers sentiments : 1) ce n’est pas une grosse affaire à moi ; 2) ça me fait triste de toute façon ; 3) frère P est trop gentil ; 4) je le mérite pour avoir eu des espérances ; 5) que c’était ridicule de penser autrement !

Ouais, de très divers sentiments. Mais quel «cherishing» que mon père spirituel voulait me consoler. Mon gain surpasse ma perte.

«C’est pas grave», je lui ai dit, «je l’ai anticipé».

Et puis, lui et sœur C et moi, nous avons prié ensemble. Merci, Seigneur. Nous t’aimons, et nous voulons t’aimer plus. Aies la première place en toutes choses. Merci pour ces saints qui m’aiment comme leur propre fille.

Merci que tu sais ce que tu fais. Tu n’as jamais tort. Même dans ma déception, je te revendique vers ton ennemi : mon Dieu a toujours raison. Il fait toutes choses bien. Son cœur est toujours bon envers moi. Sa volonté est bonne, agréable, et parfaite.

Not now but…

This is the hymn the Lord gave me after I came to terms with not being able to continue the training, and this is what came again to me after the finality of what took place today hit me:

1
Not now, but in the coming years,
It may be when with Christ we stand,
We’ll read the meaning of our tears,
And there, sometime, we’ll understand.

2
We’ll catch the broken thread again,
And finish what we here began;
God will the mysteries explain,
And then, ah, then, we’ll understand.

3
We’ll know why clouds instead of sun
Were over many a cherished plan;
Why song has ceased when scarce begun;
’Tis then, sometime, we’ll understand.

4
Why what we long for most of all,
Eludes so oft our eager hand;
Why hopes are crushed and castles fall,
Till then, sometime, we’ll understand.

5
God knows the way, He holds the key,
He guides us with unerring hand;
Sometime with tearless eyes we’ll see;
Yes, then, ’tis then, we’ll understand.

Chorus
Then trust in God through all thy days;
Fear not, for He doth hold thy hand;
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise,
Sometime, sometime, we’ll understand.

(The beautiful tune here)

But this time I have a bit of a different realisation.

I don’t need to know why. In fact, I don’t need to ask why. Since when did the Potter have to answer to the clay?

“…O man, who are you who answer back to God? Shall the thing molded say to him who molded it, Why did you make me thus?” (Romans 9:20)

God is God. His authority is supreme, and I choose to submit to it. I worship Him as God.

I also don’t need to understand. The only thing I need to know — and I do know — is that His heart is good toward us. Brother MS shared at Poland that we need to repent and believe. I choose to believe — that no mater what the sovereign God arranges for us, He has blessed us (Genesis 1:28).

But I do ask for healing — until there’s really no bitterness anywhere in my being toward Him or anyone else. And I ask for filling — because He who is faithful to strip away must also be faithful to fill with Himself.

Thou Breath from still eternity
  Breathe o’er my spirit’s barren land—
The pine tree and the myrtle tree
  Shall spring amid the desert sand;
And where Thy living water flows
  The waste shall blossom as the rose.

(Full hymn here)

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”.

Undergrad in review

This morning, I wrote my last final exam for my degree. I’m not quite sure what to feel…

Relief? I suppose. After spending the last 2 weeks at the library, 14 hours a day. After 4 years of trying to do well.

Accomplishment? Somewhat. I’ve learned a lot academically. (Whether I’ve retained that learning is a different story). But somehow it’s not the same feeling of accomplishment as when I got my IB diploma after high school. That was a landmark, whereas this — I’ve always seen as just a stepping stone.

Regret? A bit, I have to admit. Of course there’s nothing I can change now, but there’s that course in first year that I shouldn’t have given up on; that o-chem requirement that I should have taken during the summer; that 1 extra credit that should have gotten me into the specialization I wanted, which would have allowed me to do co-op, which would have gotten me some useful experience,…… etc. etc.

Fear? Trepidation? Anxiety? Made that much worse by all the “What are you going to do now?” that I’m getting? There’s just so much uncertainty. I knew it would be this way before getting to this point, but all the mental preparation is to no avail.

Bewilderment?

I think that’s it. Not knowing what to do after 16 years of going through the education pipeline. Deprived of routine and the ease that comes with it.

In moments like these… I just have to turn and call.

In moments like these,
I call on the Lord,
I call, “Oh Lord Jesus”,
He saves me.
In moments like these,
I call on the Lord,
I call, “Oh Lord Jesus”,
He saves.

Calling “Oh, Lord Jesus”
Calling “Oh, Lord Jesus”
Calling “Oh, Lord Jesus”
Jesus is Lord.

Just that little change in circumstance — from being in school this morning to being done school this afternoon — has turned my world upside down. That’s how easily tossed about we human beings are. But what really has changed? In the spiritual realm, in the realm of things eternal, nothing has changed.

Has the throne of God been shaken?

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…” (Hebrews 1:8, Psalm 45:6)

Has the promise of God become less trustworthy than before?

“Therefore God, intending to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His counsel, interposed with an oath” (6:17)

Has the status of Christ undergone modification?

“You are a Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (5:6, 7:17, 7:21, Psalm 110:4)

Has his qualification for ministering life to man been altered?

“But He, because He abides forever, has His priesthood unalterable.” (Hebrews 7:24)

Has His ability to save been diminished?

“Hence also He is able to save to the uttermost those who come forward to God through Him, since He lives always to intercede for them.” (7:25)

What then? Are my feelings real, or are God’s words?

“In order that by two unchangeable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us, which we have as an anchor of the soul…” (6:18-19a)

Should I not be encouraged? All I have to do is flee into the safe haven of my spirit. Why should I shipwreck on a stormy sea? I have an anchor of eternal hope.

On experiencing Marah

Thursday, I cried — that is, really cried — for the first time in a long time. The reason? An unfounded judgment, an unjust accusation, an unendurable attack on my character. The 侮辱、委屈 overpowered any attempt I made to remain collected. Fortunately, the persecutor was not among my audience.

I’ve had more than 48 hours to recuperate, so the emotional tumult has largely subsided. But I still have a bit of this sentiment within me:

Strive, O Jehovah, with those who strive with me;
Battle against those who battle against me. …
Vindicate me according to Your righteousness, O Jehovah my God;
And do not let them rejoice over me. (Psalm 35:1, 24)

Quite the vengeful psalm, isn’t it? Well, what my situation immediately reminded me of was the experience of the children of Israel at Marah. The way the ministry unveils this portion is too awesome. The story is simple:

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter… And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried out to Jehovah, and Jehovah showed him a tree; and he cast it into the waters, and the waters became sweet… (Exodus 15:23-25a)

but its application is profound. At a time when I felt utterly wounded, helpless, and paralyzed by embitterment, when I could do nothing except cry out to Jehovah, He showed me a tree — the crucified and resurrected Christ as the tree of life (cf. Revelation 2:7). This One is the unique “water-changer”: He turns bitter waters to sweet.

Part of the reason this portion came to me so quickly was that it was opened up at the recent Winter Training on Exodus. Brother EM drew an unexpected link to the experience of Hannah…

And her rival provoked her bitterly to irritate her… and she wept and would not eat. … And she was bitter in soul and prayed to Jehovah and wept much. And she made a vow and said, O Jehovah of hosts, if You will indeed look upon the affliction of Your female servant and remember me and not forget Your female servant, but give to Your female servant a male child, then I will give him to Jehovah for all the days of his life, and no razor will come upon his head. … And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord. I am a woman oppressed in spirit….I have been pouring out my soul before Jehovah. (1 Samuel 1:6-15)

Her bitterness, oppression of spirit produced the prayer that brought forth the son who turned the age. How eye-opening to see that this is God’s economy! He arranges our environments, we pour out our soul before Him, and He gains through our cooperation Christ as the unique Nazarite and Overcomer in us so that His kingdom comes just a little more.