Sometimes life lessons take time to learn. We often have to learn them the hard way. My favorite oncology medical assistant for the past five years had to leave because her husband is in the military and he’s been transferred. She was a sweet, extraordinarily kind, knowledgeable health care professional who jumped through hoops to help me with difficult problems more bureaucratic than medical. She made this cancer journey more bearable. She left before I had a chance to say goodbye or thank her. Her replacement, I learned last week, is the polar opposite. Therein, lies my latest illustration of a lesson I’ve had to learn once again after having it reinforced by my pastor’s Sunday message recently. It’s easy to love nice people, but we’re called to love everyone–even the not-so-nice people.
It’s no coincidence Pastor David preached on Jonah and his extreme dislike of the Ninevites right when I needed to hear the story. God wanted Jonah to warn these creeps that he would destroy them if they didn’t straighten up and fly right. Jonah hated them so much he refused. He ran away. Then he asked some sailors to throw him into the sea because he’d rather drown than be obedient. Instead a huge fish (not a whale as we may have been led to believe) swallowed him. Jonah prayed and said he would relent. So the fish spat him out on dry land. Jonah delivered the message, and just as he expected, the Ninevites rushed to mend their evil ways, which led to God spare them.
What does this have to do with my medical assistant? This: it’s easy to love nice, sweet, fun people. It’s easy to do God’s bidding and love everyone–as long as they’re, you know, lovable. Following God’s lead and loving those who are mean, unkind, disagree with us or have different politics is much harder.
I love the staff at my little clinic (now closed for the next month for reasons that make no sense, but that’s another story). I love my oncologist, her transcriber, the phlebotomist, the nurse, and the receptionist. This is why I switched from the big, ridiculously busy clinic with long waits and surly nurses to the small clinic. Then this medical assistant comes along who doesn’t introduce herself or bother with simple pleasantries and even tries to push off a mistake on the nurse instead of simply saying sorry about that. It’s hard not to resent it. Medical staff members have a huge impact on how patients with life-threatening chronic diseases get through treatment day. Sometimes I don’t think they realize to what degree.
That said, David’s message reminded me that I have an obligation as a Christian to love the folks who aren’t nice to me. Who don’t make my day. Who may actually make it worse. Not only that, I’m supposed to pray for them. He asked us this question: are you praying for “those people?” For the “other” political party? And he’s not talking about asking God to send the other guy straight to hell.
Nope, he says we have to pray that they draw closer to Jesus. And if there’s anyway we can help them accomplish that, we’re to do it.
I’m forced to stop and ask myself why this medical assistant is so brusque. She’s new, rushed, and stressed. Maybe she’s simply not a people person. Neither am I. How can I help? It’s my job to be nice. To smile and ask her how her day has been. I could tell her to have a good day, maybe even say, “God bless you,” as I walk away.
Instead, I’m just like Jonah. I’m ducking my head, kicking at the rocks with my sneaker, and mumbling, “I don’t wanna. Do I have to, God?”
The answer is yes. And I’m expected to have a good attitude while I do it. I have chemo this week. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.
How do you deal with difficult people you encounter a long the way? Tips are appreciated!