“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 had been lodged against me and the physician assistant. The patient’s written complaint detailed her brief visit with us in the ER before she was transferred to another unit. The patient had characterized my demeanor and words in an unexpectedly negative way. In my memory, the ER encounter had been so unremarkable and routine for me that I was shocked when I received 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, with the doctor taking a seat, when visiting with the patient. We should all implement these “tricks-of-the trade” to help in our communication and increase the ubiquitous 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 sometimes difficult to remember that we are “ambassadors of Christ” in the middle of disagreements with patients and their families, especially in stressful environments like the emergency room. But, even with routine encounters, we can sometimes come across un-Christ-like. I am easily tempted to react and defend myself when treated unfairly, just like anyone else. Yet, my spirit reminds me: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Some days I succeed at showing Jesus to my patients and staff. Oh, but how I have failed so miserably some other days. I love what Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, wrote in a recent e-devotional:
”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. He has a cosmic plan and, although I am an integral part, I am not an independent cog in the wheel of His divine design. Ultimately, it isn’t about how “I” – the big “me” – am exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, as if I am getting credit towards graduation into heaven. 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 primarily involves His pruning.” Ouch! Pruning hurts. But great fruit can be had in no other way. Even if it requires a medical board complaint.
Please let the fruit of your spirit live through me.