14 December 2006

Small steps forward

This year has been marked by so many new experiences. New beginnings and the start of many great adventures. While they have each stressed us out in their own way, they have also been gifts - offering us insights into God's order and inviting us to grow; embracing reality.

The biggest of these, without a doubt is the arrival of Ethan. I say arrival because, though his grand expulsion is still 7 weeks away, he is too much of a lively kicker to be thought of as merely a fetus or an unborn child. I strongly disagree when someone exclaims 'O you're going to be a father!' Excuse me, I retort (silently), I AM a father. My son's just not seen the light of day yet. In every other way, he's my child, who as far as I can tell, is a mighty kicker, recognizes my voice, is soothed by Mozart. He loves the belly rub and sulks when ignored for too long. Ethan is my son, in whom I am well pleased.

The second of these is buying a house. Yes, we took the plunge and sank in our life savings and more into an old place in Taman Midah. I fell in love with the complexity of this many-staired split level unit while Joan hated it at first. But with some imagination, we can visualise our new home. Where Ethan will play, where we'll chill, what joyful moments and memories will be birthed there. From looking at ceramic bowls to timber pergolas, it is a powerful experience to ready a home and prepare a room for my child (and future children maybe?) who have not yet transitioned from womb to world.

The third is dealing with death. With the deaths of many dear ones this year, and my own studies on Eschatology in the PTC courses - I realise my worldview and tenets of living must change. I am learning the most about how to live from thinking about how I will die. And the greatest lession is realising we are not as a materialist-humanist might think, slowing down to extinction but really, gathering momentum to a great transformation. All of creation groans and moans along with mankind towards the coming of the New Heaven & Earth. The resurrected Jesus will on that Day raise us all in new flesh to a glorious new existence and all of creation with us who have loved and known Him. O, what could be more exciting than to view death as the portal to new life. Paul's metaphor of labor pains is pregnant (no pun intended) with meaning. New life is already here now contained within, hidden from view. But that day will come when that new life will be delivered - expulsed gloriously as it were into a new order of existence.

We are learning not to fear it - for ourselves, for others, or for those we leave behind. We learn to embrace our destiny with excitement. Being doctors, we are daily reminded of our mortality. Of how abruptly endings descend on our fragile earthly existence. Even the simple process of conception and childbirth is so wrought with dangers - fatal and maligning - that every step forward requires courage and faith. Yet it is this faith that is the goal of our journey; growing a deep-seated belief within amid so much despair and darkness. 'By faith and for faith', 'faith, from first to last' - Paul's battle cry in Romans - is our anchor in these storms we are coming up against.

We smile at the storm. Not unfazed or indifferent - just knowing we will weather it well, with Christ in the vessel. The months ahead are challenging at the least - delivery, house works, moving house, changing jobs for Joan, possibly an overseas stint for me. But we hold on to each other - the Father, the Son, the Spirit; enfolding mommy, daddy and Ethan. Come what may - by faith, for faith we journey on!

01 December 2006

School of Hard Knocks

I've made my fair share of mistakes as a doctor. Administrating medications by a wrong route. Missing a diagnosis. Choosing the wrong treatment. Complications from surgery. Some of them have been potentially fatal, and how many have contributed to expediting a patient's departure from this world - who knows? Medicine is not a perfect science.

I recall many such instances when my judgement was not always the best nor my observation the keenest. But a surgeon said to me once, 'Complications are taught to you because they happen. You learn them so you can avoid them best you can, but know how to deal with them when they do happen. A surgeon who says he has not had complications is either lying or hasn't done enough!' Well said. I wouldn't use that as a selling point to my patients, but nonetheless, a person who admits mistakes clears his path to progress.

The seniors I respect the most are the ones who will teach from their experiences. Especially those who will recall the disasters they encountered or caused and warn against repeating their mistakes. Seniors are seniors, in part at least, because they have made more mistakes. Mistakes qualify them to guide those following in their steps. Similarly when we make mistakes, we beat ourselves and take time putting humpty-dumpty back together again, but we are in the process of becoming experts ourselves.

Nobody should make mistakes intentionally or keep making the same mistake over and again. Yet, looking back, the things I have learnt best and remember the longest, were learnt through humiliating errors. All the more effective if a supervisor skinned and whipped me for it. Sound a little masochistic? Well, yeah. Nonetheless, it's true. So I also tell my students - be brave, speak up, and make your mistakes now. You will learn better for having been corrected than by saying the safe and right thing all the time.