3AM Ear Infections
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Romans 15:2-3
In my first year of residency, while on call, I had to go to the ER to see any of our clinic’s patients who showed up to be seen after hours. This was before I had kids of my own, and so, when parents would bring a screaming toddler in at 3:00 AM for an ear infection, I’d find myself irritated. You came to the ER in the middle of the night and got me out of bed for an ear infection? It was, in my mind, a trivial concern that brought great inconvenience to my life. Later, when I had kids of my own, and the screaming started in the middle of the night, I was a little more understanding.
Still though, I sometimes forget why I wanted to be a physician in the first place. Way back when I chose medicine, I honestly desired to serve others. Now, years later, it’s easy to begin thinking that the purpose of it all is to serve my own interests. At my worst, I believe that my job exists only to make a good living for me and my family. The entire purpose of medicine though, isn’t to serve me. It’s to serve the patient. In my self-centeredness, I sometimes forget that.
Paul pointed this tendency out in today’s passage, insisting that our purpose as Christians is to live, not for ourselves, but for others. We don’t exist for our own pleasure, but rather, for the good of those around us. Our model for this is Jesus himself, who didn’t want to go to the cross, but for the good of all of us, sacrificed his own will to follow the father’s will.
It’s our nature to believe that we find fulfillment only by pursuing our own will and pleasure. We may not see it, but it’s in often in simply following our way that we make ourselves miserable. As a physician, when I begin to think that the clinic exists to serve me, I find myself irritated by every inconvenience. In this state, I’m profoundly unhappy. When I realize that my job exists to serve others, my attitude is transformed. Paradoxically, it’s often only in sacrificing our will that we can find true joy, purpose, and meaning in serving others.