Do you ever take joy in the small delights of expertise?  Our culture isn’t much on expertise.  We’re so democratic (theoretically) that we easily convince ourselves that access to the Internet is equivalent to expertise.  And we’re so distracted that taking the time to develop expertise seems difficult; the cults of communication and entertainment call us in loud voices to spend our time on television, movies, web-surfing, text-messaging, social networking and all the rest.  The consequence is that we may readily travel through life without developing unique skill sets, or unique areas of knowledge and understanding.  We’re too occupied with e-mails, online games, reality television, television series or the latest video game.

I’ve met some people with expertise.  From physicians to pastors, martial artists to mechanics, Bible scholars to marksmen, fishermen to carpenters, mothers, fathers and all the rest.  It’s a joy to behold someone who knows a thing at the level of mastery.

I realize, from time to time, that I have some of that.  I have some expertise, some mastery in a few things.  But medicine is where I feel it the most.  I know it’s true when I can diagnose an illness as I walk into the room.  I know it’s true when I order the right test, at the right time; when I give the medicine that makes the difference; when I can look in the eyes, feel the limb, examine the heart or do any of the thousands of things a physician does every day of his or her practice.

Fifteen years into my practice, I know I’m an expert.  I may not be the most brilliant of physicians, but I know sick, and I know well.  I know dying and living.  I know when to intervene and when to step back and do nothing.

I know the look of deep wounds and the smell of blood, the feel of broken limbs and the feel of bruised ones.  I know drunk from psychotic and terrified from simply rude.  I love that I can go to work and be that expert.  I am proud of that mastery.

The price of it all was the price every expert, every master pays.  It is paid in time.  It is paid in effort, sweat, exhaustion, devotion, passion, compassion, calling, desire.  It is paid in ignoring what is superfluous.  It is paid by doing what is right, when it must be done, in order to attain the goal.

You have it too.  You just have to look for it.  And if you don’t, you can.  The price will be high, and the time will be long.  But the reward will be amazing.


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