Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Our Legacy

The things that you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach OTHERS. 2TIM 2:2

I never meant to be a mentor; it just happened when this student asked if he could come to my office and discuss some things. He was young and bright and loved the Lord. He also was in medical school on the slow track because he had a learning disability. Our first meeting began a relationship that lasted four years. Each time he came, we walked through his study habits, his grades, and his emotional struggles. We walked through a romance where he lost the girl of his dreams. We walked through failed courses that had to be repeated. We walked through spiritual questions regarding the sovereignty of God.

My underlying message to him, repeatedly, was, “Seek with all your heart the will of God. Discover to your best ability whether or not he wants you to be a doctor. If you are convinced that he does, work with all your heart toward that end. Do not change directions unless he tells you to do so. Trust God. If you want his will more than anything else, it shall be accomplished. If God then wants you to be a doctor, you will be a doctor. If he does not, he has a better plan for you anyway and your struggle here will help build you toward that plan.”

There were many prayers, many struggles, and many disappointments, but they were all worth it when I picked up the phone and he said, “You can call me doctor.”
–A Christian doctor

God’s plan for this world is in our hands as he works through us. But someday he will take that plan from us and place it in the hands of those who follow. One of our greatest responsibilities as Christian doctors is to help prepare our younger colleagues for the work God has in store for them. Most students and residents will initially pattern their lives after graduate doctors whom they have admired. Who will they choose to mimic?

As Christian doctors, we must take seriously our responsibility before God to mentor students and residents. How do we do that when we often think: I don’t have the time. I don’t know how to mentor. Why would they listen to me, anyway? Those sound like the excuses Moses gave to God at the burning bush. God wants most of us who have access to young doctors or students to train them in whatever lessons God has taught us along the way–even if that is only how to be a better doctor or a better spouse. Here is a simple plan to help you get started:

•Understand mentoring. It does not take special skills or training – just our willingness. It means spending time with someone else for the purpose of sharing insights, skills, and encouragement.

•Find a young doctor or student whom you can mentor. If you know of none, contact CMDA headquarters and ask them to help you find one.

•Contact that student or doctor by phone. You might say, “I am a Christian doctor here in town and would like to have you over for dinner and to get acquainted. If you are married you may bring your spouse.” Set a date. If you get turned down, check back in a month or two. If you are still unsuccessful, seek another person to mentor.

•Make your first meeting a social one in which you discover who she/he is and help them relax in your presence. Focus the mentoring during that meeting on only one question: “How do you plan to protect and build your spiritual life during your training?” Follow that question where they wish to take you. End the meeting by offering to meet again next month. Set a date.

•Prepare for the next meeting. Check with CMDA regarding mentoring resources. Don’t develop a plan, just discover what is available. The plan will develop as your relationship develops.

•The next meeting should be more directed. “How have you been doing with your training?” you might ask. “Have you been having any problems I can help you with? How are you doing with your spiritual life?”

This meeting should include a time of prayer and should help you develop a future plan, as in: “I’d love to get together with you every month to pray and share what we’ve each been going through. Would you be willing to do so?” Set up future meetings on a schedule that seems right for that individual’s needs. Ask if they would like to look at Scripture or discuss some of the problems significant in a doctor’s life, like money, time, family, or office practice. Arrange the time and place and put it on your calendar.

Mentoring should be deliberate and very individualized. For some relationships it will involve no more than a dinner get-together once a quarter. For others it may involve weekly or monthly Bible study, or an intensive review of books like this one. God knows what is needed. He asks our commitment. He will make the way plain and provide the time necessary. Pray seriously about this. You are a role model whether you wish to be or not. Why not make it intentional and God-honoring? Call someone today.

Dear Father,
As I continue to serve you in this life, let me also help to raise up those who come behind me, so that generation after generation will know thy name. Amen

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