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I recently cared for a patient with a brain mass.  Who was also a difficult alcoholic. She was disruptive and difficult and alternately charming and appreciative.  She paced, then she slept. She ranted and complained.  She loved coffee.  She could not go home but did not really belong in the ER.  He finally left.  I was happy, and sad.

This is the normal state of affairs in many hospital emergency departments. But that’s not what I meant to focus on right now.

I want to say that my patient, for all her mental fog,  social troubles, mental and neurological issues, is here for a reason.  God put him here. God keeps him here.  And I am not God. I am not given all the ‘intel.’

I believe that my patient, all my patients, are imbued with worth because they are creations of the Creator.  I believe that they were loved, and often are loved, by someone in addition to the God of the universe.

But that doesn’t make them one bit easier to manage.  Nor one iota easier to talk with or make whole.  This reality applies to untold numbers of patients with complicated problems like mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, depression and a host of other maladies.

This may sound callous or cruel. It is not. We care for patients like these 24/7/365.  We love them, we seek the best for them. But they can be difficult and frustrating.  To deny this is folly. To deny this is to deny our own calling in caring for them.

And it is to deny the lessons they bring us, the gifts they give us.

By caring for them, we care for someone with a place in the world that may be utterly unknown to us.  We may never know what they were, or are, used for in the plans of  God.

We may find, one day in the Kingdom, that they were put here to make us grow in love and to teach us to care for ‘the least of these.’

What a dignified thing, to learn in Heaven’s great ‘debrief,’ that those who troubled us the most were the anvil on which the hammer of God struck to shape us.  Or that they were the stone that sharpened us into useful weapons for the good of the Father who loves them (the difficult, the deluded, the paranoid, the intoxicated, the violent) every single  bit as much as he loves us who see ourselves as together, useful, smart, capable, and valuable in and of our own selves.

I believe we, who love God, are here for now and forever.  And that perhaps we’ll see that our forever was made more secure and brighter because we cared for the cast off, the confused and the troubled.

And that maybe we needed them more than they neede us.  As they smile at us before God’s throne, and wink at him because they were both in on it from the beginning.


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