The Divine Invitation
by Sarah C. Bauer, MD
Today's Christian Doctor - Summer 2010
Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
- St. Francis of Assisi, Prayer for Peace
When I decided to become a doctor at eight years of age, it is because I believe I was called to do so. Now, twenty-four years later, I know it was a calling. It has to be. Under no circumstance would anyone follow this course unless it was due to a divine invitation. At least this is how I felt after a recently troublesome time in clinic when I learned the importance of praying for the children and families God has placed in my life.
It seemed as if I had nothing to offer any of the children and families I saw in clinic. I could not fix the economic situations which precluded them from following through on any of the therapies I recommended. I could not fix the cumulative effects of poverty, addiction, and domestic violence. Furthermore, I could not erase the cumulative toll of all of these things and how they impacted the next generation. What was the point of them seeing a doctor if I could not help them? After leaving clinic, I just felt sad and overwhelmed for them. While I tried to listen, to be supportive, and to provide a reachable goal, I felt ineffective and helpless. I wondered if I was taking on some of their feelings of helplessness. It seemed as if the ailments of society presented themselves in the forms of distressed children and parents, coming to the doctor to fix them and make everything better. Every evening, I prayed for them, because I did not know what else to do. I prayed for wisdom and discernment in my role as their doctor. I prayed for His mercy in their lives, and I prayed for hope.
In my selfishness, I went through a phase of anger and frustration. I truly felt and still feel guilty for these feelings, but here they are. What did they expect me to do? I cannot fix poverty, and accepting its consequences seems unpalatable to me. Over the course of the week, I sought God's will and believe that this is what He taught me: When I cannot fix the unfixable, perhaps it is my job as a doctor to show them love and mercy and to try to give them hope. Perhaps that is why I decided to become a doctor in the first place.
These recent frustrations brought me full circle to what I believe God wants me to do in the next phase of my service to Him. Perhaps it is a good thing that I was so disturbed by these experiences, for it means that I truly care about what happens to the children and families of my clinic. When I entered medicine, I knew I would have sleepless nights. What I did not know is that these could happen in the comfort of my own home. It was not the children and parents keeping me up at night. It was the helplessness I felt in the face of the adversity they faced on a daily basis. It was me praying for wisdom and wondering if I had what it takes to be their doctor.
Medicine can be a lonely place, especially on those sleepless nights. My way of dealing with such nights is reminding myself that I am not alone. God is with me and with the children and families whom I have been called to serve. In times such as these, I spend time in prayer, reading the Bible, and reading poems and prayers that have meant something to me over the years. One of these is St. Francis of Assisi's Prayer for Peace, which reminds me of my role as a doctor. It reminds me that my sleepless nights are nothing in comparison to what these distressed children and families experience on a daily basis. It reminds me to let go of my selfishness, and it reminds me of the divine invitation I accepted at the age of eight.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah C. Bauer, MD, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University, is a 2004 graduate of the Pritzker School of Medicine at The University of Chicago. She did her pediatrics residency at The University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. She was the Intern of the Year as Chosen by the Faculty in 2005 and was the Senior Resident of the Year as Chosen by the Faculty in 2007. She received the Herbert T. Abelson Award for Outstanding Research in Educational Innovation and The University of Chicago Child Protective Services Robert Kirschner M.D. Advocacy Award. In 2009, she was honored by the Illinois Council on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry with the Jay G. Hirsch Award. She is currently finishing a fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at The University of Chicago. She and her husband, Cris Kennedy, reside in Chicago.