Yesterday on project, though, we had the opportunity to hear from someone who not only grew in Christ during medical training, but now mentors those still somewhere along the journey. Dr. Rich Shoemaker is an emergency physician at a local hospital, and he shared some insights I’d like to pass along.
First, he spoke of a few myths that can get in the way of pursuing God and Christian fellowship during training:
- “God’s calling me to be a medical student right now. He understands how hard it is, and focusing on growing spiritually will have to wait.” A slightly different version of this one is, “I’ll have more time when I’m done my training and can focus more on God then.” Dr. Shoemaker mentioned that students need to be wise and “study hard”, but that this does not remove the need to pursue Christ. He also shared that life does not, actually, get easier, even when you’re done. By that time, even as work hours may be reduced, most providers have other responsibilities such as family and church involvement.
- “Patients are idiots who basically bring problems on themselves.” While many patients do contribute to their medical problems and may need to be challenged, Dr. Shoemaker reminded us that even the worst patients are created in God’s image (see Gen. 1:26-28), and should therefore be treated with dignity. He also pointed to the even greater reality of God’s grace to us in Christ. The reality is that patients and their providers alike are sinful and in need of rescue. When we recognize that we are just as spiritually needy as the people we’re ministering to, that changes everything.
In closing, Dr. Shoemaker also offered these practical tips to survive healthcare training:
- Become a member of a local church. If you have to choose between the church and a campus ministry, choose the church. The church is the only place you will hear regularly God’s Word faithfully preached, receive the sacraments, and be held accountable if you go astray.
- At the same time, be realistic about your involvement. Choose your commitments carefully, only doing what you actually have time for. (I would add that it’s fine to focus on things that energize you and use your gifts, especially during this intense season of training).
- Be ashamed when you fail. It’s easy to justify sin when you’re under pressure, and/or offer confession that is not truly heartfelt. Remembering that we’ve failed a holy, loving God changes our repentance, and God uses that to change us.
- Remember the grace of God. At the end of the day, it’s all about Him, not us. We always have hope because of Him!