Jennifer Scheuermann discovers the opportunity in a moment of time she'd written off as time wasted.
I stared at the screen, waiting impatiently for my clinic schedule to open. Secretly, I hoped it would reveal a cancellation. My decision to not work late the night before meant my inbox was overflowing with results and messages begging for attention. Realizing every appointment slot was filled, I sighed. And as a coworker mentioned a lunch meeting I had forgotten, irritation set in. With no break in my schedule offering a chance to catch up, I would certainly be working late that night.
Looking more closely, I read the names of patients scheduled that morning. The first name belonged to a man who has been my patient for over ten years. I had seen him recently and knew he was having routine tests done immediately before the appointment. I also knew none of the results would be available when I saw him. I was fairly certain I had offered him the option of reviewing these results by phone, and with the pressure of my busy schedule and exploding inbox weighing heavily, I found myself frustrated that he’d not taken my offer. Maybe he’ll cancel or decide to skip the appointment, I thought hopefully – just in time for my screen to refresh and announce his arrival. Silently grumbling, I clicked through his chart, preparing for a visit I felt was a waste of my time.
With full knowledge that my face and tone of voice often betray me when I try to hide my feelings, I walked to the exam room slowly, an intentional act so my entrance would not seem rushed. Reminding myself to smile, I opened the door –immediately sensing something was wrong. My patient’s smiling eyes and joyful demeanor were absent. The cheerful greeting he usually extends was missing.
We briefly discussed his medical issues before I asked if everything was okay. Did he want to talk about anything else? His response brought immediate perspective to my trivial frustrations: His family had just buried another loved one. In fact, COVID had now claimed the life of three of his family members. His sadness and grief were raw.
But more than that, his hopelessness was palpable.
I sat quietly. Listening. Offering the only consolation I could: my presence, and a compassionate space for him to grieve. In this setting he mentioned attending daily Mass – words that served to reveal his Catholic faith. Words that revealed a belief in God. And words that caused me to pause, silently questioning whether it was appropriate for me to intentionally steer our conversation away from his medical diagnosis and towards faith.
Without a doubt, I know clinging to God through the pain, and an intentional deep trust in Him, are the only things that would carry me through a similar situation. But, as his medical provider, would I be breaking an unwritten rule if I brought this up? Or would I actually be accepting God’s invitation by walking through a door He’d placed right in front of me?
Would I, in fact, be doing exactly what the Lord hoped I would do?
Taking a breath and silently asking the Holy Spirit to guide my words, I walked through that metaphorical door. Faith … Suffering and the heavy cross of grief … Actively clinging to the Lord in prayer ... Placing hope in Jesus instead of worldly circumstances ... The sometimes difficult act of trusting the Lord’s goodness through our pain, and when things don’t make sense. These topics became the focus of our remaining time together. And while his sadness and grief obviously lingered, his hopelessness and despair seemed to lessen. As our visit ended and I walked him out of clinic, his shoulders straightened slightly. His head hung not quite as low. His gaze shifted up from the floor.
As the day progressed I could not stop thinking about that visit. The appointment I had assumed would be a waste of time, was anything but. That appointment had a very specific purpose – a purpose I was unable to see until I agreed to participate, WITH GOD, in it. And while my initial outlook that day was based solely on my time and the tasks I needed to accomplish, it became clear that God wanted me to view my day quite differently.
As I reflect on my life, I realize a day rarely passes where my focus is not, in some way, on time. From turning off my alarm in the morning, to setting that same alarm at night, concern for time both starts and ends my days. The interim minutes are often guided by the same focus, as I watch the clock and estimate (or overestimate?!?!) what I can accomplish in a finite period. My life is also filled with celebrating the number of years someone has been alive and anniversaries of time spent together. This focus on time even affects my feelings. I’m irritated when I can’t spend it as I planned, and I mourn its loss when I can no longer spend it with a loved one. Perhaps you can relate …
However, it seems this concern with time is unique to us during our time here on earth. Since God exists in eternity, He is by definition, outside of time. And so I wonder … does God really “measure” time at all?? While I perceive each moment to be a unit of time, perhaps God views each moment as an opportunity – an opportunity to know Him better. To receive His love and healing. To be His hands and feet. To make Him known to others.
As I type these words I realize there have been so many comments lately about our country reaching the one-year mark from the onset of quarantine. ONE YEAR during which everyone’s life has changed in some fashion. For nearly all of us, a somber anniversary of sorts. A measure of time …
And so I question, how will most of us view this past year?
Will we look back on it as only a period of time filled with inconveniences and cancelled plans?
With stress, anxiety, and fear?
With the very real pain of grief and loss?
Or will we be able to view this past year in a different light? Will we, in some way, be able to look back on it as an opportunity?
I say this not to diminish the sorrow and tragedy that so many, my own family included, have experienced. But rather, to make it more. Perhaps by viewing this past year through only the lens of time, we miss out on something. Perhaps this outlook actually serves to LESSEN the value of all we’ve endured.
So I wonder … could it be that the Lord is actually inviting us all to more? Inviting us to view the last year, the coming year, and every future year, through His lens – the lens of opportunity?
Will we continue to see each moment as only a unit of TIME, measuring sixty seconds?
Filled with OUR plans? DEFINED by what we GAIN? What we LOSE? And how we FEEL?
Or will we instead view each moment as a unique opportunity that He has actively placed before us? Or that He has, for some reason, allowed to cross our paths?
One that we consciously step into -- regardless of how it feels?
So we can SEE Him, and KNOW Him better.
So we can BE WITH Him, and WORK WITH Him.
And if we do this, would it actually serve to INCREASE the value of all we experience?
Could it perhaps allow each moment to become HOLY?
Copyright 2021 Jennifer Scheuermann
Image: Nathan Dumlao (2018), Unsplash
About the Author
While living out her vocations of marriage, motherhood, and health care provider, Jen is often found on the sidelines of a ball game, searching for shade while cheering on her sons. An early riser, she sits with Jesus while it’s still dark and blogs about their conversations at Early Morning Coffee With Jesus. Get to know her more on Instagram or Facebook.