Few places illustrate the power of Easter, the necessity of Easter, like the emergency room of any hospital. I write this from the lounge of our ER, the day after Easter Sunday. I worked Saturday and Sunday night, and my holy weekend was a little unholy, infused as it was with the fog of fatigue; I don’t work nights as well as I once did.

However, it’s a good time to write something. Everyone is always eager to write about Easter during Lent and during Holy Week. What we need, however, is to remember it afterward.

Down the years I have seen many people come through the ER door. I have become intimately acquainted with, and involved with, thousands upon thousands of lives and situations. And I can say, without hesitation, that the message of Easter, the gift of grace offered by Jesus, the death and resurrection of Christ, the offer to wipe away our sins, the hope of a time when our tears will be wiped away, the hope of a life after the chaos of this one, well, all of our patients need those things; all of them desire those things. And so do all of us who work here.

Emergency rooms are places of pain, misery, stupidity, irresponsibility, cruelty, loss, sadness, depression, fear and almost every form of human suffering. Sometimes, the atmosphere is thick with these toxins, these pollutants in the lives of humanity.

As we wade through the pain, and try to keep our tempers among the few very difficult and abusive patients, it’s so easy to reduce it all to the mechanistic.  We simplify suffering to bacteria, virus, injury, mental illness of chemical origin.  But so many times I have seen that what our patients really need is acceptance, reassurance, and sometimes just a few minutes of listening.  Those can be precious commodities in a busy department.  But many of the sick need them more than any prescription or x-ray.

What they need, also, are our prayers.  What they need, so very much, is the saving knowledge that whatever their problem, whatever their perceived failure or inadequacy, whatever their misery, God loves them and, through Christ, they can have the acceptance and freedom from guilt that they need; a need that manifests as physical illness and brings them  hopeful to the ER, and leave them disappointed as we write yet another prescription for yet another pill.

My job is, in large part, the treatment of pain.  But almost 15 years of practice has taught me that many pains emanate from the soul more than from the physical heart, the back or extremities, the abdomen or any other physical locale.

So, with Easter past, it’s time to remember that we live in a world of pain and loneliness, of self-hatred and rejection, of sadness, grief and loss.  This is the reality of the modern emergency room.

But the reality of Easter, the reality of the resurrection, is that every single patient I see has access to hope and grace.  ‘I am come that ye may have life, and have it to the full.’  Jesus knew, from the dawn of everything, what my patients needed most.  He knew their every sin and every sickness and offered the same deal to all.  Forgiveness, acceptance, adoption, eternal life.  No lines,  no waiting.  No insurance necessary. The price was already paid.

As good a job as the ER may do, we can’t offer that.


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