Tuesday, April 14, 2015


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV 2011).

 “But, I didn’t say that!” I whined at my lawyer. “I didn’t question ‘why did she come to the ER’ nor did I belittle her knowledge of her own illness.”
A medical board complaint was lodged against the physician assistant and myself. The patient’s written complaint detailed our brief visit in the ER before she was transferred to another unit. The patient characterized my demeanor and words in an unexpectedly negative way. The encounter was so unremarkable and routine for me that it shocked me to receive the notice.

I have often asked myself if I am exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit in my daily work as a physician. Do my patients see Jesus when they look at me? Certainly not always, as this patient pointed out. Patient relationship experts advise a smile and a handshake, as well as the healthcare professional taking a seat when visiting with the patient. We can all implement these “tricks-of-the trade” to increase patient satisfaction scores. Yet, these tricks are only the shadow of the “real” thing – a caring physician. A Christ-like physician.

If by my behavior I am showing the Spirit’s Fruit, then I am showing them Jesus. This is a heavy reality and responsibility. It’s difficult to remember that we are “ambassadors of Christ” in the middle of disagreements or conflict with patients and their families, especially in the stressful environment of an emergency room. But, even with routine encounters, we can be come across un-Christ-like. I am easily tempted to react and defend myself like anyone else. Yet, my spirit reminds me that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Some days I succeed at showing my patients and staff Jesus. Oh, but how I have failed so miserably some other days.

I love what Anne Graham Lotz says in her devotional post:
“But the fruit in my life is His concern, not mine.
My concern is to make sure of three things:
  1. that as a potential fruit-bearing branch, I am connected to the Vine and keep that connection clean and unobstructed
  2. that I submit to the cultivation of the Vinedresser, which primarily involves His pruning in my life
  3. that I communicate with Him my heart’s desire.”
Such wisdom. Once again, I am reminded that it’s all about Jesus. It isn’t about me. Our primary focus should be our relationship with Jesus, our Lord, to remain “connected to the Vine” and to “submit to the cultivation of the Vinedresser, which involves His pruning in my life.” Ouch. Pruning hurts. But, great fruit can be had in no other way.
Even if it takes the form of a medical board complaint.

Dear Father,
Do what you must to prune me, so that the fruit of your Spirit may be visible in my life.

Alice Lee, MD

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