Betsy ten Boom and Delays in Auto Care

Last year, I was caring for an eldery schizophrenic gentleman in my clinic, and to make a very long story short, a very cancer-looking mass was found in his lungs, necessitating quite a bit of testing. To make an even longer story short, this was emotionally taxing on him, and then his parents planted a concern in him that his "white doctors" were only interested in using him as a medical "guinea pig". Months of letters and phone calls ensued, but he never came to see me again. Instead, the cancer has presumably just been left to keep growing. This is certainly his choice, but I've always regretted the misunderstandings under which the decision was formed.

A few months ago, as I was exiting the bus, I looked up, and there he was. I greeted him and shook his hand, and he smiled warmly back, but as the bus was waiting on me, I had to exit. I've been looking for him since, but no avail.

This month, Fridays are my day off. This isn't great for social events, but it is nice for getting things done during business hours, and so I dropped my car off to get the oil changed. A series of delays which were largely the result of inexplicably foolish moves on my part then took place, creating a 2-hr delay before I boarded the bus to go home to await the end of my auto maintenance. I sat down, regretting how I had spent the hours of my only day off, and then glanced back in the bus, and there was my friend.

I went back and sat down next to him. Since our last meeting, I've concluded that the only role I have left is to let him know that I am here to help in any way I can. His desire not to treat his underlying disease is his. Plus, I certainly wouldn't engage that topic on a public bus. So, we chatted about taking the bus and the Ann Arbor Art Fair. He asked about my family and was surprised to learn I was married. I was surprised to learn that he had 5 children and 13 grandchildren. He's worried about his twin brother, but his mother is doing fine, and he sees them at church every week.

There's a memorable part of The Hiding Place, where Betsy ten Boom tells Corrie that they must thank God for every part of their concentration camp experience. Corrie is empathetic, but draws the line when Betsy wants to thank God for the lice infestation. Later on, they discover that the reason the guards stayed out of their bunk, enabling them to minister Christ's love so openly to their fellow prisoners, was the lice. Then, the thanksgiving came easily.

Certainly I do not begin to compare the magnitudes of misfortune. Yet I was reminded today that we are small and limited in our understanding of our own life events. The New Testament teaches that God redeems suffering, that the ultimate destination is good. In daily life, this seems unlikely, but it is at the very least possible since we do not know the entire story. God may just be revealing the truth, and the foolish delays in car care may in fact be the means to a conversation I've been seeking out for almost twelve months. Just maybe, the lice can be a means of blessing and a reason for gratitude.


Ellen said...

Hi guys. I know this wasn't the same thing but as I was reading your entry, I was reminded of a book that I recently read - "the Spirit Catches you and you Fall Down." Have you read it? It's got its biases and conclusions that I might not agree with totally, but it's a great book to make you think through issues of culture and misunderstanding in patient care. If you haven't read it, I would recommend it especially for those who want to practice medicine cross-culturally.