July 8, 2014

the heart condition

the following is a fictional story that i wrote in order to portray a "heart" condition that i have suffered and struggled with as a christian. it is written as an analogy to show just how much we all need a DOCTOR:

i had been brought there for as long as i could remember, but i wasn't the one who was sick. my parents always took me with them to the hospital as they made their visits and encouraged all of the patients. they volunteered their time and energy to serve the sick, and they were greatly loved by the patients and staff. going to the hospital became a weekly ritual in our family and a natural way of life.

at first it was a joy. i loved the hospital. i didn't have any apprehension toward germs and appeared to have a distinct affinity for the sickest people in the room, always walking straight to their wheelchairs and requesting to sit in their laps. at my young age, they would hold me and chuckle at my innocence and affection. i was ignorant to disease, oblivious to death, and unaware of the concept of health.

as i got older, i learned what health and disease were and that disease leads to death. i learned ways of preventing disease and ways of treating diseases that occurred. despite the risks, my parents and i continued to volunteer and visit at the hospital with the understanding that i could continue to touch the patients while using universal precautions to keep from catching their illnesses.

at first it was all about the patients. despite the obvious illness in their lives, i loved them. i wanted all of them to get better. i was not afraid to touch any of them, and i had to be frequently reminded by my parents to wash my hands in order not to become ill as well. i would listen to the nurses as they would tell them what the DOCTOR said would make them better, and i would watch as some would listen to the DOCTOR'S orders and heal while others ignored them and suffered. i would encourage them all to listen to the DOCTOR.

i eventually became obsessed with health. as a child i began getting involved in sports and caring about my own health and fitness. i was introduced to a health book that i read cover to cover, and i started following it to the best of my ability. as a teenager i started sharing the information that i was reading in my health book and sharing little tidbits of how to stay in good shape. i continued to volunteer at the hospital regularly, and by the time i reached college, i knew that nursing was the major for me.

over all of these years, i had developed a deep relationship with the patients. i continued to love them, and they continued to love me. i shared with them teachings from my health book, and i began to see a change and improvement in their health and in their lives.

but soon something happened that started to change me. one day, after spending so much time at the hospital, another visitor confused me for a patient! she thought that i too had been admitted into the hospital. that i too was sick. that i too needed a DOCTOR. that i too needed treatment. and she began treating me in such a way.

i then began taking a new approach to distinguish that i, in fact, was absolutely NOT a patient. i began wearing scrubs when volunteering. i wore a pair of latex gloves at every moment. i created my own personal nametag for my scrub top and would even wear a yellow "isolation" suit and mask when necessary. i did anything and everything to show my position. to show my good works. and to prove to all of my observers that i was anything but sick.

i started volunteering so much time and effort that i began being named "volunteer of the month." for january. and then came february. and soon for 6 months in a row. my picture started being posted on a plaque on a wall, and soon i had my own hallway.

i started exercising so often and reading my health book so much that i soon had all of the answers. nurses were actually coming and asking me questions, and sometimes they didn't even have to ask, i would just gladly volunteer my information. and even though i exercised to the point of feeling slightly dizzy and short of breath, that didn't stop me from attempting to give it everything i had to be the "best" i could be.

i began competing with other volunteers who appeared to be getting close to my fitness level or getting close to my number of volunteer hours. i learned the art of back-handed compliments like a second language. i critiqued the other volunteers and looked for their one area of weakness and made every attempt to make them aware of it. i did whatever i could to make them feel just not quite as good enough as i was.

when asked about my own health status, i only shared the good things that i was doing: exercising, trying to eat healthy, and reading my health book. i would boast about how often i consulted with the DOCTOR and how close our relationship was. i never let on that sometimes i cheated on my diet. the beauty of eating junk food in the closet and having an unbelievably fast metabolism was that nobody else ever had to know. and the fact that my race toward health was all about its appearance was justified as irrelevant in my mind.

i no longer touched the patients. and the patients didn't want me to touch them. we really didn't have relationships anymore, and i found that i could continue to get my volunteer hours without really interacting with them. i might say "hello" or give a brief smile, but that was sometimes the extent of our interaction. most of the time i would look at the patients and think, "i'm just so glad i don't have what he has. compared to that girl, i'm in great shape. i'm so glad that i haven't made any of those choices. i'm just so healthy. so good. so strong."

and that's when it happened. ironically it occurred at the hospital as i was walking down my hallway, wearing my latex gloves and isolation mask and holding my head high with honor. the dizziness overcame me. i passed out. and i took a huge, towering fall straight to the floor.

when i woke up, i was in a hospital bed with what seemed like thousands of wires attached to me. something was beeping. there was something cold running through my veins. how did i get here? what happened? why in the world was such a healthy person lying in a hospital bed?

and then i saw HIM. it was the DOCTOR. HE came over to me and gently took my hand. "you, loved one, are very, very sick. you have a heart condition which has only worsened over time. over the past few years, your heart has gotten smaller. feelings of dizziness and shortness of breath were warning signs, but I imagine you never believed that you were actually sick. you have lived your life as one of the living, but the truth is that you have always been dying. there is a procedure that can save you, but first you must admit that you need it."

i had been brought there for as long as i could remember, and i was the one who was sick.

"the church is a hospital of sinners, not a museum of saints." abigail van buren