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Friday at the Doctors

March 30, 2014

Something unusual happened on Friday. At least it was unusual for me but it is all too frequent for so many people. On Friday I had to go to the doctors. I had a chest infection that was getting worse, and having had TB I need to be very careful about such things. So I went for a course of antibiotics to knock it on the head before it had the chance to become serious. The doctor I saw was really helpful but sadly she is leaving. However, the whole experience was very worrying. I had to phone at 8.30am to get an appointment, trying again and again before I eventually got through. I had to have have the confidence to keep trying and to say to myself that it was an emergency (only emergency cases are seen the same day). I was also fortunate enough to have consulted the Surgery website first and found the dedicated emergency appointment number, which apparently is not easy to find without internet access. All of this made me worry about the care of those who are not as able or as confident or as determined as me. How many people needing medical care give up before they get an appointment?

While trying to get through I also read the details on the website and was reminded, in no uncertain terms, that an appointment meant 10 minutes with a doctor and no more. My doctor was very late seeing me and obviously took the time that she needed with me and with each of her patients. But what about those patients who see doctors who stick to the rules? You would really have to be clear about your symptoms and be articulate enough to get them across quickly.

Again what about those who are hesitant, confused or embarrassed? What about the elderly people that I saw taking several minutes just to get into the consulting room? What about those with complicated illnesses or combinations of illnesses? My own wife has two serious medical conditions, one life threatening, but the doctor she saw would have put them both down to depression if she had not insisted that she be referred to a specialist.

I then compared that approach with the research that I keep seeing in journals about the complex nature of health, where mind and body work together in unique ways for health and ill health. All that without even touching the spiritual dimension of health. It seems that so much is being wasted by doctors giving quick fixes for patients who will have to keep coming back, rather than dealing with real health.

Rant over, I thought about how a family can be a place of health. On Mothering Sunday I started to think about how true Mothering differs from my less than wonderful observations on medical care.

I thought of ‘time’, not giving or receiving time, just sharing time with someone who cares. When thinking of a mother’s care I looked to Colossians chapter 3 and was reminded of how we are told:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3.12-15)

This all sounds very lovely. But, as anyone who has tried it will tell you, it is far from easy. It is so hard to clothe yourself with love, when those around you do not. Even when I do that perfect harmony is so often elusive. Even so, I can’t help thinking how much better our society would be if this advice was taken seriously, including how much better our medical provision could be. Our politicians, and medical professionals may not be Christians but they all have mothers. So why not use Mothering Sunday to encourage all the wonderful values associated with mothering? Why not apply those values not just as key foundations of family life but also as key foundations of any truly caring or Christian society?

Going back to the medical profession. There is so much stress and pressure. But I think these are being made worse by having the wrong priorities. To me medical priorities need to include compassion, kindness and all the other values set out in Colossians 3.

How can you truly care for someone in need if you have no compassion for them? Just think about the difference a little kindness can make? I was met with kindness from both the receptionist and the doctor. What a difference that makes to how confident we are in ourselves, and how well we can access the medical care on offer.

I often hear that faith is an impractical thing. But that could not be further from the truth. The values of my faith are deeply practical. They form solid foundations for families and relationships, if we let them. I know this to be true. I now need to have the confidence of my belief to offer these solutions as practical solutions in the world. I may seem mad. But I have seen these Godly, Mothering values applied in church schools, and I have seen the wonderful difference that they make to the  well being of teachers and staff. And do you know what? – The grades were better too!

I know this is true. I know that these values work. But it is hard to keep confident in a world that is so often indifferent or hostile. Then I remember how Paul addresses the Colossians as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”. If I am loved by God that much and chosen then perhaps I can ask for the strength and confidence to share his wonderful pattern for this world?

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