Learning Slowly and Badly: Negative Money
When I started medical school 4 years ago, I had that courageous attitude that I would pursue primary care to fill the gaps in our health care system to meet real needs in my community and for my neighbor. I remember having the attitude that I was willing to make this risky financial investment and incur loads of loans in order to become a physician who could add even greater value into those communities. But while, that same goal continues to lead me forward into Residency, I’ve noticed that courage and self-sacrificial attitude has slowly — with time, long hours, and increasing debt — been replaced with a kind of resentment. As Jaycee and my wedding stands in the not so distant future, debt also stands as an insurmountable wall between my future and the present. Debt has an interesting way of impressing a sense of enslavement upon an individual. And like a bitter slave whose been reminded of his slavery one too many times, my courage and generosity have somewhere along the way slipped through my fingers.
This Sunday I was reminded of that simple line Jesus said “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:21. And boy, did that line convicted me! I realized before I placed my sights on service, on giving myself to my patients and community, and my heart followed with courage and passion. Whether it was staring into the black hole of debt too long, being infected with the jadedness within health care itself, or some combination thereof, my heart followed with fear and resentment. I saw my heart walk the path outlined by the wise Yoda when he said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Maybe that is one reason why burnout is so high among those in my profession. But if Jesus’ principle works, it must work both ways. I’ve decided to return my gaze from the abyss of debt and back towards being damn thankful for every opportunity I have to serve my patients and community as well as my friends and family. In Luke 21:1–4 Jesus talks about a poor widow who tithed two copper coins, all that she owned, and he praised her above the rich who gave out of their surplus. Being thankful for the opportunity to serve despite my debt, feels a little bit like tithing all that I own. Yet I’m learning, slowly and badly, to give in this life joyfully even with the negative money to my name.
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Luke 21:1–4. 1 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”