Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deliberately Seeking

And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Ki 6:17

I was still sleepy from jet lag when the first patient showed up at my home. The king of Abraka heard that an American specialist was coming to care for his people, so he brought his wife to me the day after I arrived in Nigeria. I examined her: drowsy, lymph nodes enlarged, low-grade fevers---and I had no idea what was wrong with her. So, I pulled out my tropical medicine textbook and flipped through the pages until I found a picture of a patient who fit her description: trypanosomiasis. Up until that moment, I had not even known how to spell the word, but I was convinced by the picture that this was her diagnosis. Unfortunately, the missionary doctors and local Nigerian physicians told me that African sleeping sickness had never been reported in their area. But, it was the only diagnosis I could come up with so I plunged in to find the trypanosomes. I aspirated fluid from an enlarged node and spent an hour under the microscope searching for the parasites I had never seen---nada.

Then I had a surgery colleague excise a lymph node and I squeezed the juice onto a slide. I looked and looked and looked for thirty minutes or more, eyes burning, head aching, nothing, nothing, nothing, and then I saw a lymphocyte move, then another, then another, then a flagella, then the whole parasite, then scores of parasites. We had uncovered a new endemic focus of trypanosomiasis, beginning with the queen’s lymph node. It had taken me hours and multiple attempts to find the first parasite, but by the time we had published our series of 67 cases, I could almost spot them moving without a microscope.

During his private practice years, Dr. Walt Larimore, coauthor with William Peel of The Saline Solution, was deliberate about seeking God’s presence in his practice. On each patient chart, he would place a sticker: WIGD, reminding him to ask himself, “What Is God Doing?” before he entered the examining room. Walt knew that he was not alone in his concern for each patient’s well being; God, too, was acting in each office visit. Each patient encounter was for Walt a “divine encounter.” Over and over again Dr. Larimore saw God working in his patients’ lives because he was deliberately seeking God in action.

Most of us go through our busy days and never see God in action because we only casually look for Him. If I had only casually looked for trypanosomes, that queen would have died and I would not have received my chicken from the king. Seeing God’s presence in our practices takes our seeking His presence in our practices, deliberately seeking. It’s the same in our homes and the same in our churches and the same in our times of social interaction. Those trypanosomes were there whether I saw them or not but I could not interact with them to help my patient without finding them. God is at work in all of our encounters and we are much less likely to join in his plan if we do not recognize His presence.

Do we pray every morning that God will allow us to partner with Him in His plan?

Do we pray outside each patient door that He will make that patient whole and that we may be a part of that healing?

Do we listen for His lead for speaking words of witness?

Most of us want to be used by God in our work. Are we daily, desperately seeking how he will use us?

Dear God,
Use me for thy plan and for thy glory. Let me seek your presence with each patient, colleague and friend.

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