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19th September: Available -- For What?

They made me keeper of the vineyards; but, my own vineyard I have not kept! Song of Solomon 1:6

Of all the qualities of a good doctor, easy availability in times of need or crisis is one most appreciated by staff and patients alike. To be at the right place at the right time seems to be the particular gift of some, while the doctor who leaves word of his probable whereabouts inside or outside the hospital is much respected by ward staff and telephone operators.

But while it is true that there is no record that Jesus ever turned down a genuine call for help, yet he did purposefully seek seclusion and solitude for prayer (Lk 5:16), even trying to ensure at times that his whereabouts were not known (Mk 7:24). Availability for our own work or, in emergency, for the work of others is one thing, but availability to be at the beck and call of those who have no claim on our services is another.

In many church situations it is customary to put doctors into positions of leadership just because they are doctors, forgetting the fact that medical status does not confer spiritual ability. Christian doctors are sometimes put 'on a pedestal' because of their professional influence, and suffer in consequence the loneliness of being regarded as 'above need', while all the time they are experiencing the barrenness of a busy life and are in no less need (perhaps in greater need than most) of spiritual help and sustenance. This is particularly true of the junior hospital doctor who moves on too frequently to put down roots, and who is already under pressure from overwork and isolation. The time will come later for involvement in the work of the local Christian community, when the doctor's contribution to the cross-cultural and cross-generational life of the church may be considerable.

In the meantime it may be wise to make the hospital the chief sphere of service, to choose a church which is a spiritual feeding round, and to spend leisure time in homes where fellowship and refreshment may be found. Thus output and intake will be balanced, and the Christian doctor become a continuing channel rather than an ever diminishing reservoir of God's grace. God asks us to be before we do, to come before we go and to receive before we give.

Lord, give me wisdom to decide
when to respond to the call of others for help,
and when to refuse that I may be able to cultivate 'my own vineyard'.

Further reading: Is 5:1-7. Eph 1:1-14, 2:4-10.


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