Encountering an Immortal

 
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So that, "they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven." Mark 4:12

Seeing not Perceiving  

I met Mrs. Doe during what appeared to be just another frantic day in clinic. For many months her husband was sick and had been under our care. During this time, word had spread about how difficult she could be. When it was my turn to see the couple in clinic, my colleagues shared their sympathies with me. Right before entering the room, my medical assistant blew by me and grumbled, ‘Good luck.’ With that lovely setup, I took a deep breath and steeled myself for the coming battle.

What ensued was half an hour of Mrs. Doe talking in circles complaining about the poor care her husband was receiving. Cue: internal eye roll. When I finally had the chance to squeeze a sentence in, I implored Mr. Doe, “Sir, what brings you in today?” Sitting nonplussed in his wheelchair he mused, ‘I’m doing fine. She is the sick one. Ask her.’ A little taken aback, I finally turned from the computer to take a good look at Mrs. Doe and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ That is when the tears began streaming down her face.

Cancer. Her cancer had come back after years fearing it would return. And this time, it had spread all over her body.  

Interacting with Immortals

In that instance, my entire perspective shifted. I felt God whisper to me, ‘Now you perceive.’ I was no longer looking at a complaining woman who was just another inconvenience to my workflow but I was finally perceiving her and was reminded:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” (C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory)

Regarding Mrs. Doe in this new light forced me to realize I had allowed my heart to harden towards people in the busyness of work, family and ministry responsibilities. I had begun to reel back from really perceiving others as immortal beings loved by God. Instead, I resigned to look superficially at people so I could get through my days easier.

Seeing into Action

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

In stark contrast to myself, when Jesus saw people, he didn’t see a burden to bear. He saw hurting and broken people in need of love and chose to engage them. He could have just given them nice words. But often when he preached, Jesus would reach out his hands to personally touch, heal, or feed people.

As I sat there considering Mrs. Doe’s pain, my preconceived notions melted away as God revealed the agony she was experiencing. I felt the prompting of the Spirit stir my soul and reached out to take her hand in mine. We sat there quietly as she continued crying. My heart was filled with an overwhelming compassion for her that reminded me of experiences on mission trips and intense prayer meetings. In that moment I felt a profound love overflow from deep within for both Mrs. Doe and even for me.

After reassuring her I was there to help, she looked at me with soft eyes and gave one of the most sincere ‘thank you’s’ I’ve ever experienced. This was weeks ago, but I still have the lingering sense of God’s spirit that encountered my heart in a new but reminiscent way during that clinic visit.

Encountering God by Encountering Others

Usually we think of divine encounters as intense prayer times or worship gatherings. However, this experience stepping into Mrs. Does brokenness reminded me that through significant interactions with people we can encounter God in a unique way. And this is not just for me. I believe the Lord is seeking to encounter all of us in new and unexpected ways through the people around us. This is not reserved for the perfect or the specially called. We can all encounter God in this way by allowing the Spirit to help us discern who to engage whether at home, school, work, church or on the street. He is not confined to a specific building, a mission trip or a meeting but can be found in every person we meet. We are all a reflection and doorway to the very God of the universe who is waiting on us to choose to see Him through one another.  There are hungry and broken people all across our world. If we could just perceive people as they are - immortal souls who carry a piece of God - and really engage them, we can encounter God in our lives and be forever changed by it.

Lord, may this translate into our lives. We pray to have Your eyes to perceive people as You perceive. And as we perceive them, help us love them, but not just a passive love. Move our hearts into compassionate action. As we engage the hearts of people in whatever their circumstances, Lord may we encounter them as we would encounter you, knowing that You can encounter us in a way we never knew or could even imagine possible.
 

 

Tim Lee (@timsylee) is a resident physician at UC Irvine Medical Center who received his B.S., M.S., and M.D. from the University of Illinois.

 
 
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