October 10, 2014

Going Under the Knife: What Really Matters

Why are there so many successful hospital/doctor TV series?

Think about it. It's a pretty long list of popular shows over the years! I've not studied this but I'd imagine that cop/detective shows may be the only profession that surpasses the number of hospital/doctor shows since the early days of TV.

I've spent more time recently in hospitals and doctors' offices than I usually do (everyone's okay–no worries!). It's got me thinking about this question. Why are we so intrigued by the medical drama?

I think it has something to do with the themes such shows touch on. There's sacrifice–someone has to lose their spleen (or leg, or eye, etc.) in order to save their life. There's intimate exposure–so much of the patient's life is opened up to the doctor–and us viewers–just to figure out what is wrong with them. There's the reminder of our human finiteness–the incredible, near-perfect doctor can't save everyone and our humanity, our frailty is shared with them as they crouch, head in hands, still in their scrubs after losing a life in the operating room. At the end of every episode you've watched actors wrestle with the question of what really matters in life: those we love, our human limits, life itself.

In real life, it's not so different. Though, certainly not as dramatic.

I recently had surgery and I lost count of how many times I was reminded of the fact that I could die–though it was very unlikely. That I could lose, or at least lose the function of, certain parts of my body–though it was very unlikely. As I awoke after surgery, lying in the recovery room, I found myself reflecting on this and two thoughts crossed my mind:

1) Modern medicine is awesome!

2) Pain medication is awesome-er!!

But seriously, I did feel as though the whole experience brought what matters in life into perspective. Even though death is an unlikely possibility in many surgeries today, the mere consideration of it had me reflecting on what really matters in my life. In my post-surgery haze, I was grateful to be alive, very aware of my human (post-surgery) limitations, and cognizant of the dependence I have on those I love because of those limitations.

And isn't that what much of life ought to be about? Appreciating life as a gift. Appreciating those we are dependent upon and those who depend upon us.

It means recognizing that life matters because of what we contribute and what we receive.

It means recognizing that we can't go it alone, we need each other.

Living life is being in community. Living life is creating something of meaning.

Like the mysterious malady in a medical drama, the answer is always right in front of us, though we often miss it.

I find myself wondering whether this is not one of the most central tasks of the Christian leader: to build community that makes life meaningful for all who participate. Our frequent mistake is that we believe that it's the community itself that adds meaning. While in some manner this is true, what's even more important is that the faith community participates in helping each us discover how meaningful our lives are and can be–no matter who we are.

In a word: discipleship.

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