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23rd July: The Mastery of Time -- but who is Master?

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

The writer of Ecclesiastes speaks powerfully and sometimes uncomfortably to our generation, but was he ever a houseman? There just isn't time to examine all the patients, no time to see relatives; I never get my half-day and ... there goes the bleep again! We soon lose the excitement of qualifying as we battle with tiredness and the disillusionment of finding how much of medicine is routine. I wonder if all the housemen feel themselves to be a combination of clerk and phlebotomist! And what about time for Christian witness as we find there are -- three 'chest pains' in casualty and no beds, the consultant's round going on and the drip we've just put up leaking into the tissue? How can we be expected to obey Paul's injunction to 'let your speech be always gracious' (Col 4:6)?

The philosopher is right though, there is a time for everything, including the trivia of house jobs. Never again does the opportunity come to be so involved in the day-to-day care of patients. The satisfaction of mastering new techniques and seeing patients respond to treatment is not so fresh and thrilling as we become more senior. Perhaps it is never again quite so easy to share with patients, relatives and nurses the Christian hope that is ours.

None of this disguises the fact that the pre-registration year is a testing time; yet here is the chance to lay down the pattern for our own future medical practice, to learn to discriminate between important and unimportant, to get priorities right, to find that speed sometimes matters more than perfection, and that it is possible to do what is right at the wrong time.

Above all we must take time for fellowship with God and with other Christians, in hospital and church, and to stimulate our spiritual growth by Christian reading. Impossible? Not if we look to him who assures us there is time for everything -- that is, everything that he wants us to do.

Lord, help me today to discern what to do and
garrison my heart with your peace as I do it.

Further reading: Ec 3:1-10. Col 3:22-24.


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