When The Doctor Ends Up As The Patient

Note: One purpose of this Blog posting is to give a current status report (context) for Pastor Warner’s wound healing.

It had all the potential of being a dramatic time of ministry.  It was, after all, a homecoming of sorts: Jesus, the Anointed One, was returning to where He’d been raised, Nazareth.  (Lk.4:16) “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”  Potential existed coupled with His own disciplined practice of regularly going to church (Hmm, I wonder what this says about those who consistently neglect the assembly today?!)  This potential was further increased when He was asked to publically read from the sacred Scriptures.  He took the scroll and read a passage from Isaiah which was to be His mission statement!  (Please center these verses)

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.  

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I don’t think you can find any more powerful or hope-filled words about a person’s mission than this!  Then, Jesus made this both personal and present, rather than just historical or theoretical when He said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  It’s been my experience that many men feel that because of their familiarity with where they’ve come from, that this will automatically give them some kind of ministry advantage.  That is not always the case.  Unfortunately, Jesus was not met with glad welcome but with serious incredulity.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” where did these gracious words and outrageous claim come from?  Jesus made reference to a common colloquialism when He said, “And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself.' What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”  These were not words of faith or truth-receptivity at all.  They actually foreshadowed the Cross, if you’re the Son of God, come down from that place of weakness and demonstrate your power and strength.

he passage Physician, heal yourself” is sort of how I feel, and where I’m at after the second debridement of the wound on my right ankle bone.  It was a necessary and sound medical procedure, and when you’re dealing with wounds, sometimes you have to go bigger in order to get smaller.  The overhang tissue had to be “un-roofed” for everything to heal properly and speedily.  It did leave me with a larger wound and the need to go back to an earlier, and stricter healing regimen, a majority of time with my foot and leg elevated.  On a practical level, it meant I had to put myself back on “Injured Reserve” list, and would be unable to preach as I normally would.  This is the only way the wound will heal, and I can finally put it behind me.  I was able to preach Sunday morning on “Leg Support,” with the intention of being able to make that announcement to the church myself.  I think it was well-received, and I am so privileged to serve such a faithful and dedicated congregation of people.  The “physician, health thyself” refers to the fact that you spend the majority of your life ministering to others, and now for a period of time, you are unable to do so.  Some have experienced this praying for others to be healed, when they themselves are suffering!?  So, the doctor ends up as the patient.  It makes for some interesting drama.

One of the articles that triggered this was the TIME magazine cover story (1-2-11), “What I Learned From My Cancer Scare” by Dr. Mehmet Oz.  Dr. Oz is a celebrity doctor and the host of “The Doctor Oz Show” watched by millions of people.  The intriguing thing to me was reading about him going from Dr. Oz, renowned celebrity, to Mr. Oz, the patient, and joining the ranks of people who receive this kind of diagnosis every day of every year. [Note: I’m not advocating all of Dr. Oz’s medical advice and the things he embraces] As you can probably imagine, that transition was not the easiest.  It began with a “routine” colonoscopy around his 50th birthday, which turned up some suspicious polyps which were pre-cancerous.  He spoke about his personal battles, and how what was routine when it involves other people, takes on whole new meaning when it’s you!  The mind races, “How could this be happening to me?”  Living a healthy lifestyle can dramatically lower your risk of cancer, but it’s no guarantee of anything.  This is what struck me, “I take pride in being a good doctor and a good family man.  But the fact is, I had been a pretty bad patient.” He turned out in many ways to be the kind of patient he had lectured about in his practice for years.  He wrote, “As I lay on the gurney, a snapshot of thousands of conversations I had had in my office with patients on whom I was about to operate formed vividly in my mind.  My emphasis in those situations is always pointed: I look them in the eye and tell them how I need their help, that this is a combined effort ad that we will get through this together but that we both have responsibilities.  I always feel frustrated when my patients seem to think that precise medical instructions based on years of experience don’t apply to them.  I was now that person.”  He was very frank about his disobeying his doctor’s instructions.  How he stalled and delayed a follow-up test for a 9 full months!?  He even put a name on it, yes, he called it arrogance, how that the statistics somehow didn’t apply to him.  A now much more modest Dr. Oz concluded, “The goal, I now knew better than I did before, is not to be a perfect patient, but simply to be as good a patient as you can be.”

So back to my personal situation and my plan.  The irony in this for me, is that most of your life you’ve spent ministering to others, but, now, for a season you are the patient!  Even though I am on the “I.R.” list, and can’t preach like I’d been doing for nearly 40 years, I do want to be a “good patient.”  Two big things are at the forefront of this process: first, keeping my foot/leg elevated as much as possible so no swelling occurs.  The other is to make sure I follow a protein-rich diet.  Both of those things I am trying to put into practice.  In all of this there is also the element of time.  If all goes well, I am looking at approximately a 3-month span.  So while I am “available” but not “in action” like I’m used to, I want to make it as productive a time as possible.  I plan to give priority to as much reading as possible, and if I can’t preach, then I can write!  This gives me an opportunity to increase the number of blog postings for your edification on the church website.  “Keeping Your Head In The Game.” If you would give it a glance, you will see that it touches so many areas of life and ministry.

My calling and one of my life verses has been (Eph.3:8) “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see...”  Since sermon preparation had been put on hold, then there’s no excuse to keep writing and communicating those “unsearchable riches.”  So, stay tuned folks.  By God’s grace, there’s more to come!