Monday, December 5, 2011

In Search of the "Clinical Christ"

Once upon a time when I was young--in my 50's--I directed a pain clinic in a dental school. Eight hours a day, five days every week, they came. The AVERAGE time they had suffered chronic pain was 6 years. That's hard to imagine, but it is true; and it is only an average.
Men and women came complaining of headaches, facial pain, earache, and all manner of disease and disorder. Probably the worst pain was what we call Trigeminal Neuralgia; a pain that is felt in some part of the distribution of the Trigeminal nerve--one of the major nerves to the face and jaws.
When I thought this was the case I would ask a question: "Does the pain feel like you have been stabbed in the face with a hot knife that is plugged into an outlet?" When their eyes widened I pretty much knew I had it right. I knew their pain was excruciating.
For 18 years I saw all manner of hurting people. Most of them were women...but that's a different topic and takes time to explain.
I felt none of their pains and could not truly identify with the patients. My task was to be clinically proficient, search out the problem, and try to fix it as best I could. There were always those I could not help; and they would continue their search for healing. That was the hardest part of the work...not being able to help or heal.
Some of us have a "clinical relationship" with Jesus Christ. We are unable to feel the pain of His humanity; the Son of Man, who was, in His short life, hungry, weary, cold, insulted, taunted, accused, called a sinner, called a liar, called a devil, tormented by the weight of the sin of this world, put on trial, and executed in the preferred, Roman "excruciating" way; crucifixion.
I assume the connection between the two words is obvious, but just in case...
So we read our Bibles, go to a study class and talk about the Christ; often in a disconnected, abstract, intellectual, clinical way. Not connecting, not feeling, not really able to understand in a deep and personal way what our Lord and Creator chose to go through as the only way to rescue us from the spiritual, tumorous, tentacles of sin that permeate our hearts, minds, and bodies.
He chose to suffer and die with one thing in mind; that we would somehow grasp the eternal issues and choose Him as Lord and Savior. Intellectual discussions about diseases physical, mental, and spiritual are OK in their place. The problem is that the patient--that would be you and me--goes away with the same pain that they brought to the discussion.
Verily, verily, we cannot feel what the Christ felt, for no man or woman has ever suffered as did He, because they carried only the weight of their own sin--which can be heavy--while He carried the sin of every person who has ever lived or will live. Past, present, and future, Christ paid full price for our sins in the hope that we (you and I) would say "Yes" to his invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" [Matthew 11:28, 29] [KJV]
Surely, someone will say to Him, "Yes Lord. I believe. I will follow You."

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