The Great Physician

by Joanie Butman

Fall is when I do my annual physical maintenance: checkups, mammogram, dentist, eye doctor, etc. It’s easier to keep everyone on the same schedule, confined to a brief period of time. Sadly, the older I get, the more maintenance I need, and the longer it takes. Don’t you wish there was a one-stop approach where you could just schedule a tune-up like with your car? “Hi, I’d like to schedule my 100,000 mile service appointment.” Unfortunately, you don’t get to upgrade to a new model when your body stops performing at peak performance or starts sagging from overuse.

The appointment at Sloane I discussed last week was just the first of a number of healthcare visits. Something new was added into the rotation this year.  A friend recommended including a spiritual ‘cleanse’ to my list. That’s not what she called it, but it certainly describes the inner healing service I experienced. It may sound crass, but it was what I refer to as a ‘spiritual colonoscopy.’

Thankfully, a traditional colonoscopy is only needed every ten years because it’s going to take that long for the anesthesiologist from my last one to forget me. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. I don’t seem to have a good track record with doctors. First of all, as they were ready to put me under, I turned to everyone in the room and pleaded, “Please, no jokes about my last name while you’re working.” After the procedure, the anesthesiologist came in to wake me up. I awoke to him tapping my face softly saying, “Joan, it’s over. You can wake up now.” I have no defense for my response other than I must have been giddy from the drugs. I giggled and said, “Oh, that’s what my husband says after we have sex!” He ran out with me calling after him, “Wait. It was just a joke.” No one appreciates my humor.

At any rate, despite many entreaties over the years from well-meaning friends to attend a variety of healing services to address the ‘tribble,’ I’ve never felt so inclined. Honestly, it kind of weirded me out. As I mentioned recently, I’m a ‘no touch’ kind of gal. Plus, I’ve always felt if God wanted to heal me, He could and would accomplish His will whether I was in a healing service, in quiet prayer, or in a hospital bed. Just because a healing occurs within the medical realm doesn’t make it any less of a miracle. You can ask any doctor who has witnessed occasions when patients have survived against all medical certainties with no scientific explanation.

While the new targeted drug therapy I mentioned last week may treat my cancer, I’ve always been more concerned with the condition of my soul than of my body. Eventually, I will have no need for this creaky, old body, but my soul is going to be around a lo-o-n-n-g-g-g time. It would behoove me to make sure it is in peak condition. My surgeon is a talented man, but he couldn’t heal my heart issues anymore than he could ‘cure’ my cancer. For that, I had to consult the Great Physician.

I can’t tell you why I waited so long to schedule a much-needed appointment to mend my world-weary soul. Perhaps it is as Dr. Henry Cloud suggests that “only when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change” will you take the necessary steps to address the issues needing adjustment. The cancer wasn’t what was eating away at me, my ‘issues’ were. “What issues?” you might ask. How about making inappropriate comments to medical professionals? Let’s face it, we all have issues. If you don’t think you do, then you’ve just discovered one of yours. I stole that line from one of my books, The Issue Room. Believe me, anyone who writes a book with that title does so from a deep reservoir of her own issues.

When you first consult any doctor you begin by explaining your symptoms, then listen for his advice to determine the proper course of treatment. A spiritual colonoscopy is no different. You pour out your heart to Him, then sit, rest, and wait for His response. It’s much more involved than that; but like any God moment, I don’t believe it’s meant to be explained but experienced.What I can tell you is that the process produced an inner peace that flowed through me, cleansing my soul more thoroughly than a 10-oz bottle of magnesium citrate does your colon. How else can you describe the process of a divine presence reaching into the deepest, darkest depths of your soul to expose and extract bitter roots which were cleverly disguising themselves in a variety of symptoms subtly sabotaging any effort towards change?

God’s surgical skill in removing years of regrets, resentments, bitterness, anger, pride, selfishness and overwhelming guilt was swift and thorough. Intuitively, I knew the removal of these malignancies was more vital to my future than any tumor because their continued growth was choking out my ability to see or fulfill God’s purpose for me. Cancer and I can coexist, but the continuous tape playing in my mind had to go, whether I live five years or thirty-five years. The length of one’s life isn’t as important as how you choose to live it. I was tired of being tethered to the past and lugging around more baggage than I realized.

Suddenly, I felt ten pounds lighter. I didn’t realize the heft of the issues I kept recycling. It wasn’t a matter of forgiveness on God’s part. I had that long ago. It was forgiving myself. It was as if God’s hand pressed the stop button on the incessant self-flagellation tape that has haunted me all my life. He not only stopped the tape; He rewound it so that I could record over all those false accusations I had been using to flog myself. Now it is a daily exercise to choose to create a new tape of affirmation not degradation, of choosing to see myself through His eyes and listening to His words to remind myself that I am meant to be a light in the world empowered by choice. So, today I choose “to live with gratitude for the love that fills my heart, the peace that rests within my spirit, and the voice of hope that says…all things are possible.”

How are you going to choose to live today?