I’ve spent quite a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms lately. It has provided me with a good amount of time to sit and watch the world go by. I suspect many people in our community have visited Footscray Hospital at some stage of their life and have found that it is not the most pleasant place to visit. The emergency and outpatient areas are particularly depressing, and long waiting times and cramped conditions do little to lift the human spirit.
It is interesting to see different reactions from those sitting beside me in this environment. I have spent many hours waiting for appointments to actually occur and at times have been extremely frustrated at having to wait so long. ‘Don’t they know how important my time is? I’m a busy man!’ I’ve often thought.
As a school principal I am more aware than most of the difficulty of running organizations which are reliant on government funding. I know that long waiting times in hospitals are not necessarily caused by the receptionists, nurses or doctors on the ground looking after me. These issues are caused by problems far beyond their control.
Understanding the situation doesn’t change my feeling of frustration, but it does provide a level of context and understanding. It makes me mindful of the hard words given to us by Christ: ‘You abandon the commandments of God and hold to human tradition’. (Mark 7:8)
Human tradition would encourage me to make a big fuss, have my case heard and get angry with the reception staff for wasting my time.
But in reality, the time isn’t mine; it belongs to God.
The body that the doctors are looking after is not mine; it belongs to God’s creation.
The words that I speak and the thoughts that I think, should be the same as God’s words and thoughts, regardless of circumstances.
As I sat in the outpatient area last week I reflected on the story of the prodigal son. In this story a father is greatly disgraced, hurt and shamed by his son, who leaves his father’s house with a share of the inheritance while his father still lives. When the son returns, he expects to face the consequences of his sin. Yet the father, full of love, does not follow human tradition in repaying hurt with hurt. He follows God’s tradition, and welcomes his son with joy and forgiveness.
As we go about our lives, let us remember God’s tradition of love, hope, forgiveness, patience, compassion and mercy. Let us walk gently and deal patiently with those who rub us the wrong way. You never know when extending understanding and mercy to someone may transform their life and allow the light of Christ to shine brightly.