Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fulfillment, Church, and Chest Tubes

I’ve thought an awful lot about fulfillment lately: what it means to be fulfilled; the difference between fulfillment and contentment – if there is a difference.

Fulfillment is:
• “the state or quality of being fulfilled”
• “the act or state of fulfilling”

Fulfill is:
• “to carry out, or bring to realization”
• “to perform or do”
• “to satisfy”
• “to develop full potential of”

I realized not too long ago that I’m not currently fulfilled in what I’m doing. I’m not satisfied, don’t feel like I’m living up to my full potential. I’m bored. I feel that God demands more from me. I have learned a great deal in cardiothoracic surgery, but I don’t feel used, don’t feel I’m living up to my full potential, don’t feel fulfilled.

Texas has been good to me in many ways, but it hasn’t been all that I had expected it to be. Different truths than my previous expectations don’t mean it has been bad or not good, just different than what I had expected.

Church has been hard. Very very hard. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, not sure where I belong. I believe that American churches aren’t really designed for single people. It’s not intentional or purposeful, but church compliments families and single people sometimes just don’t fit. You’re supposed to grow up, get married, have children. When you don’t people unconsciously wonder what’s wrong with you, wonder why you’re different. Married women my age with children are busy raising a family. Married men my age are hesitant to talk to me, because, of course, I’m looking for a husband and may attack them. Older people want to send me to the college class because that’s where the single people are (even though we are in very very different places in life). Older women want to think of every single man in church and begin planning a meal where they can invite both of us for a “friendly” dinner. Or worse than that, people just simply don’t talk to me. I become invisible and don’t matter. It’s no wonder so many people stop going to church when they move or get divorced or grow up different (single, not married).

I’ve been to 12 churches since I moved to Dallas. I will eventually find my place. It just takes time.
I had to work a few weekends ago on a Sunday. I stepped into a patient’s room to remove chest tubes. These are large bore tubes that reside in the mediastinal area and they are uncomfortable and removing them is painful. The patient spoke the Spanish. I speak very bad Spanish. I really only speak the English. The patient was blind and hard of hearing. I did my best to explain what I was going to do. A family member stood by the bed; they were bilingual. The patient gazed in my eyes and began talking. I asked the family member what they were saying. I was told that the patient was praying for me. Praying for my hands, for my family, for my future. The patient continued to mumble in the Spanish and the cadence of those words deeply touched my heart. I removed the chest tubes. The act pained the patient, they cried out. Then the patient took my hand, and with tear filled eyes the cadence started again. The family member was crying. I was told that the patient was thanking God for me, was again praying for my hands, prayed that I would have family by my bed if I was ever in the hospital. The family member began to cry as they told me these words. My heart was deeply moved.

There are moments of fulfillment, of joy; even at the most unexpected times and during the most unexpected activity (like when I’m inflicting pain).

It was a Sunday. I was not at church. I did not speak the Spanish. I was more fulfilled though and more spiritually moved in that moment than I had been in quite some time. Sometimes church is found outside of walls and in small rooms with people who speak the same language as you, the one of love, of hope, of thanksgiving.