The apostles returned and met with Jesus, and told him all they had done and taught. There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples didn't even have time to eat. So he said to them 'Let us go off by ourselves to some place where w
Eight o'clock on a sunny August morning, and suddenly I'm no longer on call; in fact I'm no longer employed. The patients I've admitted overnight are now the responsibility of my successor, my bleep is silent, and I'm free. Leaving the hospital, I meet some other members of the firm on their way to breakfast before outpatients, and already I feel an outsider. I've been unemployed for fifteen minutes, and I hate it.
The usual lift of the spirits at the start of a holiday isn't there. Life outside the hospital goes on as before, but it doesn't take long to see that medicine has taken up so much of my energy and enthusiasm that there isn't much life outside the hospital for me. Lesson one: it is hard to be unemployed because it makes me face the poverty of my interests.
Insecurity, a change of pace and the loss of the sense of being needed were all aspects of unemployment I had expected, being warned about them by my patients. What I didn't expect, and find the hardest to hear, is the silence of my mind. I have no list of jobs to do, no problems to unravel, no new skills to challenge me. The stamp of a working, active God seems to be so deep within us that employment causes a tension which is continually there, sometimes drowned temporarily, but always returning.
Lesson two: it is hard to be unemployed because there is no shape or form to it -- and it seems to be purposeless.
O Lord, who gave us work to do,
may I never make my work an end in itself -- an idol.
If unemployment comes my way, teach me its lessons,
help me to understand my own negative reactions,
and find grace to help, not only for myself
but for others like me.
Further reading: 1 Ki 17:1-6, 18:1.
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