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Rocks in Shoes

July 13, 2021

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23, ESV).

He was thin, and one could tell his life had been hard. His wife had been murdered in 2012, and he had suffered multiple accidents with persistent pain from his injuries. He had no one in his life to help him, and now with advanced cancer he had come to me. After my evaluation and recommendations, I asked, “Do you have a church that might give you support?” “No church,” he said. “I don’t believe in God, or at least don’t know if He exists. If there was a God, you’d think He’d give me a break.” He paused, “I’ve really got nothing left to live for.” I held out my hand, “You’ve got one friend here to live for.” And I knew my hand required more than just being his doctor.

“If there was a God, you’d think He’d give me a break.”

I don’t fault this man for focusing on the hard things of life and ignoring the wonderful blessings others see. Pain blinds us and has a way of shouting at us until we hear no other sound.

Life can be beautiful, but so many lives are filled with levels of suffering that can no more be ignored than a sharp rock in the shoe of one who runs in a land of beauty.

We ask ourselves, “Why doesn’t he just stop, bend over and take the rock out?” “Why doesn’t he just listen when I tell him that God loves him, that he can find peace in arms that will redeem his suffering?”

Such words are necessary to say and may be empowered by God’s Spirit to produce change, but sometimes even necessary words are too superficial to heal a deep and lasting wound, a wound that demands we stop our own run, shift our eyes from the beauty, bend over to focus on his shoe, pull the rock out ourselves and lose the race we had planned to win, slowing the day we had wanted to end so that we might enjoy a home that this man will never know.

It’s tough for a healthcare professional, or for any person, to take on the chronically wounded. It requires time that we do not have, and interruptions we dread to experience, and vulnerability we are unprepared to show, and active love.

And there is danger in pulling rocks from the shoes of the wounded. We must be careful, for we can easily be overwhelmed by a bottomless need and fail to complete our other God-given responsibilities.

A suggestion: ask God to point out one patient or neighbor who is badly wounded by life, one who will require extra commitment, extra time, extra prayer, extra emotional energy. Then commit to this one with God’s leadership. Offer your hand of friendship, offer your heart, and lead them with ongoing acts of unexpected kindness toward the only one who can make them whole again. Once this one is whole, ask God to choose one more. Dare to pick up this cross.

Dear God,
There is so much I want to do with my own life. Help me set it aside when You call me into the life of another.

Al Weir, MD

Al Weir, MD

After leaving academic medicine, Dr. Weir served in private practice at the West Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee from 1991-2005 before joining the CMDA staff as Vice President of Campus & Community Ministries where he served for three years from 2005-2008. He is presently Professor of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Program Director for the Hematology/Oncology fellowship program. He is also President of Albanian Health Fund, an educational ministry to Albania where he has been serving for 20 years. He is the author of two books: When Your Doctor Has Bad News and Practice by the Book. Dr. Weir’s work has also been published in many medical journals and other publications. Al and his wife Becky live in Memphis, Tennessee, and they have three children and three grandchildren. Dr. Weir is currently serving on CMDA's Board of Trustees.

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