It’s no surprise that I went into health law. Being a natural control freak, it has been nice over the past dozen years to be the one in charge. To say to a surgeon, who is so incredibly skilled and calm under pressure, it’s okay. Let me explain how this works. Even though inside, I’m probably laughing a bit, like “this is only a deposition! If it ends badly, what’s a half-day mediation among friends?” And yet I’m a lawyer, and this is what I know. Surgeons tell me colonoscopies are easy, but you stick me in front of some sleeping guy with a probe, I’d faint on his anesthesia-filled abdomen like a Victorian bride.
I think I’ve worked with doctors long enough to know how to relate to them. They know how to deduce and diagnose and empirically treat. We lawyers know how to protect and defend and watch over them. We each play an important role. And, if my legal knowledge fails to impress a physician, I simply need to sit for an hour listening to their drug-seeking patients explain how they flushed their Norco pills down the toilet by accident while the doctor gets back on schedule. That wins them over every time.
If you are a drug-seeking patient, by the way, let’s all just agree to come up with more creative stories. How many times does one actually lean over and inadvertently dump an entire bottle of pills into the toilet? Pills that are allegedly so vital to your daily survival as a human being? If this really does happen, you should (1) create some other story that sounds more plausible, maybe one involving aliens; (2) “I left them in my friend’s car in Las Vegas” is never an acceptable substitute; and (3) try to go without your pain medication for a day so you won’t fall asleep or feely loopy while you are learning basic life skills like “hand stability” and “how to open child-safety locks without spraying pills all about the dang place.”
But whether you’re a doctor or lawyer or rocket scientist, it’s never fun looking at life from the vantage point of a patient. When I was lying there in a hospital bed in a paper-thin gown so many times, staring at water-stained ceiling tiles, I felt helpless. I hung onto my physician’s every word. I tried to understand the things they were all collectively telling me, but it all sounded so strange. You have a detached retina. You have an unexplainable infection. Your heart stopped. You have cancer. Those statements were harsh and foreign to my ears. I wasn’t trained at this. I was out of my comfort zone. All I saw was a doctor’s mouth moving, throwing my entire world around like balls in the air. Cataracts and cancer. Bleeding incisions and scars. Bouncing up and down, up and down, up and down. Crazy words I couldn’t control.
Then I realized we are most scared of what we don’t understand. I understand how to be a lawyer. Pediatricians understand why children get sick. Surgeons know how to cut. But put a doctor on the witness stand, or try to explain a complex Rule 11 agreement, or why a counter-claim is necessary, and a doctor looks more like a patient who has been told they have a tumor. What? Come again? I’ve not researched that. I’m not trained in this area. For this, I am not prepared. And that’s terrifying.
We all want to feel comfortable. Some are experts at making an Americano with two raw sugars and a dash of steamed milk. Others can peel cysts off an ovary with their bare hands. Others still can argue a case in front of a Federal Judge and an impaneled jury. But put any one of them in different shoes, and there would be mass hysteria. Vascular surgeons building houses? Internists writing contracts? Lawyers fixing air conditioning units? Unacceptable. Type A people like us need to be in control. That’s why we chose a career that only some can attain. Multiple degrees somehow shield us from failure. From attack. From fear.
But to be a child of God, we must strip off the titles. It doesn’t really matter whether you pour coffee or set broken bones. God doesn’t give you more points for writing contracts than for fixing sewer lines. We all simply have a role to play in this world. Trust me – if a thoracic surgeon is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he is no better off than a gardener or a street sweeper. Titles nor residency nor a thousand letters of reference matter. They all just float like dead leaves to the ground. People crunch atop them on the way to their office buildings and news stands and subway stops. Student loans and years of education are useless, ready to be bagged up and thrown away, never to be thought of again.
Self-importance has no role to play in a Christian’s life. We aren’t meant to find our worth in a material world. Through our titles or careers. Through our lineage or trust or years of service. We are simply designed to serve. To seek God’s truth and wisdom as vigorously as we pursue our degrees, and when we feel that we know enough, realize that we have so much left to learn. After all – we all have scars, and bleeding incisions, and cancer that invades our purest intentions. We are all drug-seekers of some kind, although our drug is power and control and feeling too comfortable rather than something we abuse in pill form.
Someday, in the blink of an eye, it will all be over. On that day, we walk in tandem. The drug seekers. The doctors. The lawyers. The latte makers. We are all on the same level field, playing a role until the curtain comes down.