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On Second Thought

One day I saw a patient for an emergency at community clinic where I serve. He had a swelling in his jaw and was concerned about infection. He was an elderly man who lived in an assistance facility and had not had regular dental care for many years. He explained that he was told years ago that his remaining teeth needed extracting but he never got around to it, something I hear frequently in public health.

I listened patiently, I did my examination, diagnosed the infection and dental problem, and recommended a course of treatment. But something had flipped with my patient. He was not pleased that I would not be able to remove his pain right then and there. I apologized and reiterated the plan for his oral health. He became very angry with me and accused me of not caring. He was yelling at me in the middle of the clinic. He wanted care that was outside my scope of practice. He wanted it now. He wanted me to suddenly reverse years of dental problems.

I was floored. Never once have I been accused of not caring for my patients. Quite the contrary, I feel called to dental public health for the very reason of wanting to serve my community. But for some reason this accusation strongly affected me. I felt this wave of rage swell from my fingers up to my ears.

This voice in the back of my head told me to just walk away and push this angry man off on another provider. Anger and resentment told me, let him be someone else’s problem.

But I looked into this man’s face, lined with age and his shoulders hunched with distress, and something changed. I had a second thought.

He was still angry. But my heart was different.

Lord, rise up and save me. (Psalm 3:7)

Often I think the Lord is saving me from enemies out there in the world trying to hurt me, which is true of course. But He also often saves me from the enemy of my own sin.

Instead of lashing out, I was able to shield myself from the accusations of apathy and listen to this man. When I actually listened I could see his humanity clearer. He was desperate. He was in pain. I was his hope.

I felt the Lord save me from myself. From my own sin and anger. And I am grateful. So grateful.

And He will for you, too.

Are you feeling attacked in your workplace or in your relationships? How can you turn and ask for help from Christ to see Him in your challenges?

Samantha Aguinaldo-Wetterholm is a wife to Paul, mom to two little ones, and practices dentistry at a public health community center for low income families in the Bay Area, California. She (unashamedly) thinks ice cream is its own food group, loves anything Harry Potter, does not leave the house without wearing sparkly earrings, and is an enthusiastic proponent of the Oxford comma. Find out more about her here.

7 Comments

  • Reply
    Debbie Wentworth
    January 29, 2018 at 5:36 am

    Your reflection was perfectly timed. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Genevieve K
    January 29, 2018 at 6:08 am

    Wow, powerful, the thought of being saved from ourselves. Thank you for this beautiful reflection! Carrying it with me today and this week!

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    January 29, 2018 at 8:40 am

    I’m headed into the first day on my own with 4 kids (our three and our newborn; my husband goes back to work today) and an intense daily schedule. More than anything, I fear my attitude turning sour, getting in a funk, and not being able to turn it around. I’m committing to praying through your reflection three times today!! Thank you!! Your example is so encouraging to me.

  • Reply
    Jennifer O.
    January 29, 2018 at 10:25 am

    I feel the same way. Thank you for your reflection!

  • Reply
    Diane Fosnocht
    January 29, 2018 at 11:23 am

    ditto to Debbie. This is just what I needed today as I deal with an ongoing difficulty in my life. Your question prompt guided me to journal through what this challenge is trying to tell me, much like Ignatian Spirituality. I am so grateful for your gifts and talents today. Thank you for sharing

  • Reply
    Donna
    January 29, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story and reflection. As I was reading, a particular thought came strongly to mind. I saw myself as the elderly man in pain, demanding an immediate fix…which is sometimes the way I am with our Lord. Often due to my own neglect of daily spiritual care, I find myself upset or suffering from some particular situation, of my own making. I can end up angry, demanding that God “fix things now”. The Good Lord, always with infinite patience and love, listens to me, and gently prescribes the means to healing and health, but it’s not always a quick and easy path, and not really what I want to hear. I somehow think that since I’ve acknowledged the problem, the situation should be remedied immediately. Your story reminds me that I must always remember my own brokenness, and that God always meets me where I’m at, and shows me the best path forward, in loving mercy, tenderness, and care. It’s my job to respond with humility, as well as love and gratitude. Thank you for being an example of Christ’s love and patience for us all!

  • Reply
    Natalie
    January 29, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Everything I needed today on every level. God is good! I needed the scripture, the story, and the thought provoking question on feeling attacked in my workplace and relationships and inviting to see God in these challenges. He is working on me big time this week. Feeling lighter already. Thank you and God bless!

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