In a striking departure from my last post about having tails…
Let me preface by saying that a little over a year ago, I was ordained as a deacon in our Southern Baptist Church. Now, the lay-person or non-Baptist might assume that involves dour looks, patrolling for alcohol and wearing black suits with wingtips. (Actually, that’s only the Deacon Special Operations Team. Hey, do you know why Baptists don’t have sex standing up?  It might lead to dancing!)

In point of fact, the job of a deacon is to spread the gospel and serve the church by helping the members of the church, and assisting the pastor. I grew up a pastor’s son, so I know every preacher needs a lot of help.

When I agreed, I was nervous.  I never assumed I was ‘deacon material’ and vowed revenge on whomever nominated me.  But I realized it was a good thing, a blessing.  However, I have a slight problem.  Many of the things deacons are called for involve sick people.  And frankly, I get enough of that.  It’s hard for me to muster up the energy to visit hospitals.  It’s petty, I know.  I need to let God deal with it.  But taking off the doctor hat and putting on the deacon one, sometimes in the same day, is an odd kind of parlor trick.  When the last patient is seen, the last chart dictated, the last argument with patients or consultants finished, the last thing I want to do is stay at the hospital or go back later.
Today, one of the people in my ‘deacon flock’ died.  I knew she was sick, but didn’t know how quickly her malignancy would take her.  I feel terribly guilty because I didn’t visit her.  But then, guilt and inadequacy go hand in hand with me.  And with medicine.

Last week I spent some time wringing my hands over critical patients.  Had I done enough?   Had I done the right thing?  Could I have done more?  Why wasn’t I more excited about all the patients?  Why was I a bad doctor?  Why was I feeling guilty?  What else should I do?

Today my wife and daughter are in New York City.  Elysa will turn seven next week, and it’s her first big ‘girl trip’ with her mother and another mother and little girl.  Before she left, I felt that I hadn’t done enough with her.  I always try to make enormous things out of days like birthdays.  She’ll get back the day before her birthday.  I’ll have one day of ‘six’ left!  We’ll have to play together!  Take pictures!  I haven’t done enough!

Of course, I have correspondences unanswered, stories that circulate through my mind day and night that remain unwritten, ideas for columns to write, things to do with the children, blah, blah, blah.  Always more, never enough.

I am inadequate…but wait…

I am inadequate!  That’s what Jesus said we were!  He said we were powerless without Him, but that with Him we could do anything!  He said it was OK that we were weak and unable to do it all.  He said we couldn’t do it all.  He said ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

That’s a tough thing to accept.  Christian or atheist, we all try to work ourselves into worth.  We so often try to do too much, to justify our existence, to desperately make our life meaningful and relevant.  Over and over we fail. (And don’t try to tell me that it’s because of religion that I feel insufficient and guilty.  The non-religious feel guilt as acutely as the religious.  All you have to do is listen to ardent atheist environmentalists or committed atheist socialists to know that guilt lives in the believer and non-believer alike!)
I’m not a perfect doctor.  I’m not a perfect father.  I’m sure not a perfect husband.  And I’m a stumbling, angst-filled, worried, slightly neurotic deacon.  But it’s OK.  I have to let it go.  It’s all too easy to build an alter to failure and worship there…it’s a deity sure to accept all our bowed knees and confessions, and constantly calling for sacrifice.  But it’s a hungry god that we will never appease, and that will never release us unless we smash the altar to bits.

That said, my friends, be free.  You aren’t good enough.  None of us are.  And it’s alright.

God rain blessings down upon you,

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