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23rd September: The Doctor as Servant

Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master. John 13:16

My fellow house-surgeon and I had been delayed in the theatre for several hours assisting the boss with a very difficult case, and I was exhausted as I just popped into the ward to make sure everything was all right before going to supper.

'Ah', said Sister. 'There are loads of intravenous injections to be given'. I was astonished, as they should have been given hours ago, and our registrar was supposed to have been covering the wards while the housemen were in the theatre. I asked her why Dr X hadn't given them. 'Well, I did ask him, but he merely said that he was a registrar, and it wasn't a registrar's job to give 'intra-venouses' and I should wait for the houseman'.

This kind of 'caste-system' thinking seemed to affect many doctors in the teaching hospital where I worked. It was far more important to stress one's rank in the pecking-order than actually to do something to help the patient.

How different from the Lord Jesus, who, although he had absolute power and authority, humbled himself and took the lowest place, that of servant. 'The Son of man came not to be served but to serve' (Mk 10:45). And he has left us an example to follow in his footsteps. If we do so, it will certainly make a difference.

A hideous metamorphosis occurs in medical students when they shed their pupal covering and gain their adult (white) coat. Simultaneously a 'little god' complex becomes implanted in their souls, and humility has seemingly vanished forever.

'I'm sick and tired of being a houseman', a colleague complained to me over coffee one day towards the end of our contract. 'I'm constantly at everyone' beck and call, day and night. I shall be glad when I become a senior house officer. Don't you get fed up with it?'

I explained to him that I could not afford to get fed up with it, since as a Christian I was called to a lifetime of service -- not just one brief year. I went on to explain that, of course, I found it hard when my service was abused, as often it was by our seniors, but that didn't change the fact that my whole aim in life as a follower of Christ was to serve him and help others.

May God help you too to follow humbly after him today.

Serving others is not something that comes easily to us, Lord Jesus,
and the pride of life is so hard to combat.
Help us to follow your example of humility and service
in our work and through all our activities.

Further reading: Jn 13:1-17. Phil 2:3-11.


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