I teach Emory medical students. They rotate through my office for only two weeks to experience pediatric ambulatory care. I’m supposed to expose them to a variety of acute problems, chronic illness management, and of course well-child preventive care.
These students are “perfect”. Emory School of Medicine accepts 150 students out of more than 20,000 applicants. They are young, brilliant, and athletic. I have yet to meet one that isn’t literally the highest of the high achievers. Two have had PhD’s!
In addition to the medical stuff, I have a list of what I call my “non-medical curricula”. I usually talk about the three sources of errors, some business principles, etc. I always throw in that every man’s question is “Do I have what it takes to be a man?” and every woman’s question… “Will you notice me?”
Not long ago, I had a young woman who wasn’t sure what specialty she wanted to pursue. On her last day, she asked me what my favorite age to see was. I said, “Not babies. They are cute and cuddly but if the parents just love’em, feed’em, and clean their bottoms, then there’s not much for me to do except reassure the parents. The three to ten year olds love you and give great hugs; but it’s the adolescents who have been slapped up side the head by the disappointments of life that float my boat. I get to reach into their lives and make a difference.”
The very next patient was a depressed 16 year old boy. During the visit with him, I talked about his wounds, his core lie, vow, and very dysfunctional pose. As I talked to this young man, I realized that the student’s eyes had turned from the patient to me. I was acutely aware that she was looking at me as if she’d never heard such revolutionary brilliance. (I can actually say that since none of the ideas were originally mine! Haha). When we left the room, she turned to me and said, “I am going into pediatric psychiatry.” Even though I changed my specialty choice because of one patient in January 1987, I suggested that maybe she shouldn’t make a lifetime career decision because of one 30 minute experience.
It’s often like this with these students. They are brilliant—brilliant sponges, soaking up spiritual truth without even realizing that’s what I’m sharing.
On the flip side, these “kids” are almost universally liberal. As upper/middle-class hyper-educated graduates of the leading academic indoctrination centers in the America, they’ve been marinated in leftist ideology. They are politically liberal, socially left of the American mainstream, and think that anyone with a brain supports abortion, Democrats, and universal healthcare insurance.
That’s why it was a unique pleasure this week to meet an evangelical young man. He started on Tuesday and within five minutes of being in the office I found out he attended a well-known church in the area. An hour later we were talking about Wild at Heart. (He’d read it.).
He followed me all day and was with me when I spoke to one teenage boy about sex. I told the patient about every man’s question, that sex doesn’t answer that question and that every man with the right equipment can have sex. I shared that if he takes his question to a woman then he gives her the power to answer with a resounding “No” and that the single best thing he can do for his life, his heart, and his future is to not sleep with his girlfriend.
During the course of the day, my new found evangelical med student friend seemed to be having a great time. Most of the students act interested and some genuinely are, but he seemed to be reveling in the day. Truthfully, so was I. I genuinely love my job.
The next day, I took him to lunch. I started the conversation, “Tell me about your life.” He shared his story, and ended with, “..and I called my mom last night and told her that you are the most manly doctor I’ve ever met.”
I teared up.
I had to divert my eyes for a minute.
You see, my core lie is “I am not a man.” Another version, “I can never be a man because of my history.”, is even worse because it removes all hope of ever being the man God created me to be. To have someone say that I am the most manly doc they’ve ever met was an overwhelming moment of affirmation. I think it was an affirmation straight from Jesus to my heart. The question I most longed to have answered, the answer I most longed to hear, and at a core level had struggled to believe as truth, was given to me as a free gift.
Apparently, Jesus really does love me and cares for my heart.
This may be the most precious Christmas gift I’ve ever received.