I’m not such a good missionary. I mean, I’ve never really fit the mold for the missionary woman. Number one, missionary women are supposed to be kind of reserved, sweet, mild ladies, and I’m not too much of that stuff. And they really do wear missionary woman dresses. I wear scrubs because it is like getting to wear pajamas out in public. I don’t have a husband, while almost every other woman is a “missionary wife” (perhaps that’s due to my constant pajama wearing in public, or some of my other similar attributes). I don’t like playing card or board games, and all the real missionaries love some of that. Who even knew that there were so many of these crazy games? They keep thinking they can teach me how to play and I’ll like it, but it holds no pleasure for me. I just go to “game night” for the snacks and fellowship. Thankfully, those missionary wives do make good snacks.
I’m not even a very good missionary doctor. I find myself often frustrated by all the stuff around me, sometimes consumed by it. I teach the general surgery residents and think, “surely I was not this hard to teach, surely not”. I try to have patience with the nursing staff, but this week one of my nurse midwives thought that preterm pregnancy was anything before 40 weeks. Huh? Every day it is something. Sometimes it feels like every moment is something. Patient care sometimes has huge mistakes and I find myself overwhelmed by waves of irritation by near misses, and often complete failures. I’m fine with seeing patients in clinic, but what about when they show up at the door of my house and I don’t know what to do with them. Today one came wanting me to do a vaginal exam. Really??? Do I need to clarify that I don’t do those at my house on Sundays? And those things are all outside of me. Inside, I find inadequacies of knowledge, skill that is lacking compared to the cases before me, and a restless spirit that gets consumed by all of the circumstances around me.
The other day I had been grumpy inside for quite some time. I realized the pattern of frequent frustration and I thought to myself, I am going to start every introduction to a new person with an apology – “I’m sorry I didn’t meet you earlier in life when I was really fun…sorry you only got to know the new me that is not really much fun at all”. And that got me thinking about who I want to be and how I want to see life around me. I can’t fix all the knowledge deficits in myself or the staff. I can’t be the perfect doctor to every patient who comes in. I can’t know what the right thing is to do for every person who shows up at my house. But somehow I have to learn to rely on God through every success and every failure. I can see how He is glorified by success, but so often I can’t imagine that he can be gloried even by our brokenness and mistakes.
One day last week I finally saw a glimpse of it in a tangible way. I was operating, just about to open the last layers of the belly wall, when I thought, "that looks like a big full bladder poking out at me". Hiding the frustration inside me, I asked if the patient had a catheter in. I mean, every patient, every case needs that catheter. I knew that someone had forgotten, just like they had forgotten the antibiotics until I asked just before beginning the case. I could feel the irritation rising inside me. But then I realized, had that bladder not been bulging out at me, tremendously full, I would probably have damaged it entering the abdomen. Only with it so distended could I really see how amazingly high up it was stuck to the underlying structures. Their error actually helped me. So instead of feeling my heart beat fast from yet another irritation, I thanked God for providing for me through it.
In 2 Corinthians it speaks of how we carry about the treasure of the gospel in “earthen vessels” so that the power will be seen to be from God and not from ourselves. He could've chosen golden vessels, or fine crystal vessels, but He chose earthen vessels so that the glory that was displayed by them would not be due to their own attributes. And in multiple places within the Word, God speaks of His people being like clay, and He like the potter molding them just as He desires. To think on it makes me wonder at the goodness of God. If I was making something and it kept having a defect in it, I would just say “well, that’s a defective clump of clay, throw it out and get another”. But God so often shows His patience and kindness to us, even when we are grumpy or irritated or imperfect in a thousand other ways. He keeps shaping and molding us, He keeps His hands on us. He is making us to be vessels that can carry great treasures. But we don’t carry our own precious cargo, we carry the greatest of worth – the gospel of Christ. Who would have thought that God would trust that to be carried by the flesh of marred men? And yet, that is how He has seen fit to make Himself known. Not through perfect, strong, wise specimens of humanity, but through the broken, weak, and weary who follow after Him. All He requires is that they be His. He is big enough to mold them into what He wants them to be from there.