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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Four Steps To Understanding

Twenty-six pages of deficiencies. If not corrected in the next two weeks, the State Licensing Board threatened to close our doors. The small hospital was the only medical help for sixty-nine miles… delivering babies, suturing ghastly wounds from equipment accidents, providing ready access to a cast for novice tree climbers, and stabilizing crash victims for transport elsewhere. The three thousand residents of the isolated, farming community entrusted the retention of their hospital’s license to me, a twenty-six-year-old university grad who knew nothing of hospital administration. The biggest task was to write all of the policy and procedure manuals, plus a job description for every position. What was I thinking last week, when I agreed to tackle this challenge?

Driving away from the Sunday morning worship service, I had one thing on my mind: Get to the hospital and work. Normally, I didn’t work on Sunday, because I knew the Lord had intended it for a day of rest. But, the inspectors were coming in a few days; God would understand.

Changing out of the fashionable polyester of that era, swapping my dress boots for everyday comfort, I grabbed my overloaded briefcase. Four steps into the short climb out of my lower-level, garden duplex apartment, a wave of nausea struck my empty stomach. Whipping around, I flew down those steps and back through the front door.

Once in the bathroom, however, my stomach felt fine. “Hmmm? Okay, guess I had too much coffee and not enough to soak it up this morning. I’ll get something to eat at the hospital.” I lived alone, so talking out loud came naturally.

Snatching up my briefcase again, I hurried back out the door. On the first step, I felt a slight queasiness. Once my foot hit step number four, I was certain I’d not make it to the bathroom. I dropped my briefcase, sprinting back down those few steps.

Even before I’d crossed the living room, the nausea lifted. “Okay, God, what’s the deal? You know I have to work this one Sunday, don’t You? All of these people are counting on me.”

“Do you?” While I had spoken softly, His reply came as a gentle awareness of His Presence in my spirit.

I sank to the country-style sofa, bright floral upholstery enveloped me. Looking up as though God stood right in front of me, I explained. “Look, God; no one knows better than You just how ill-equipped I am for this task. I must’ve been nuts to think I could turn things around for this hospital. But, the people are counting on me; I’m their only hope to keep their doors open. I just have to try; You understand, right?”

“I understand all things. Yes, the people are counting on you. And, you? Who are you counting on to help you do that job?”

Oh boy, He had me there. Without God’s help, I’d never succeed. Sliding to my knees, I bowed my head. “Father God, I’m sorry. Please forgive my foolish reliance on myself for this monumental task. I can do nothing without You and You ask so little of me. I won’t work today. Thank you for helping me understand the seriousness of the day of rest.”

After retrieving my briefcase from the fourth step, I took up my guitar and enjoyed a time of personal praise and worship with gusto. God cared about me enough to chastise me; I felt loved. I spent the afternoon visiting friends.

I worked hard for the few days before the inspection team arrived, stern-faced and loaded with all kinds of paperwork. I’d done my best, but would it be enough? The entire day, I answered questions and pulled files. Though none were visible, I felt their white gloves being swiped over every inch of my work.

At the close of the day, the inspectors handed me a sheet of paper with five points hand-written. Across the page was a stamp, Waived. They accepted those last five deficiencies, because the age of the facility didn’t allow for those corrections to be made. The hospital had passed the inspection.

When the official licensing letter arrived, I counted it a privilege to display the enclosed approval notice. The wall-mounted certificate proved a constant reminder of God’s ever-present involvement in my daily life.

Nearly four decades later, the lesson learned on those four steps remains fresh: God loves me and expects me to honor the day of Sabbath Rest. Got it.

Deut. 5:12-14: “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.”

The above is one of the Ten Commandments the Creator God gave to the people… not because He is a tyrant, but because the One Who made us knows best just what we need. There’s a time to work and a time to rest--a lesson God didn’t need to teach me twice.

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