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.
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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.