“When we describe, we do so as active agents whose intentions and moral character pervade our descriptions.” So wrote Greg Jones in Transformed Judgment: Toward a Trinitarian Account of the Moral Life. For some years now I have thought about his insight into the human heart, into the way we see, and the why of the way we see.
On September 15th I spoke about seeing to the annual Physicians Prayer Breakfast, a gathering of doctors of all sorts, who come together from throughout Fairfax County to ponder more fully the meaning of their profession. “The Vocation of Physician: Common Grace for the Common Good” was the theme, and I looked at the way we see, particularly of course the implications for who we are and what we do.
Along the way we learned something from Paul Tournier, the famous Swiss physician of the middle years of 20th-century, who wrote many books about the meaning of persons, especially about the wholeness of our health. And then from Paul Brand, the British physician who spent his life in India on behalf of lepers, understanding that their disease was something more and less than what centuries of medical practice had concluded, changing the way leprosy was addressed all over the world. (He even spent an evening in our home years ago, and I remember the details, of what he said and why it mattered.)
Before I closed, I talked about two physicians I know well, Larry Bergstrom of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, and Todd Wahrenberger of the Mercy Family Health Center in Pittsburgh. Larry is “a doctor for the hopeless,” as he is a remarkably gifted diagnostician at the Clinic, being sent people that all the doctors in (choose your city) don’t know what to do with, the problems being so complex and challenging; and Todd is “a doctor for the homeless,” as he serves those who live on the streets of Pittsburgh who suffer from mental illness as well, its own complex and challenging focus for a physician. Though their worlds are very different- the specialized medical center and the streets of the city –their passions are very similar, as they have both given years to learning to see with their hearts, as “active agents whose intentions and moral character pervade our descriptions.”
And of course I wished to offer a vision of vocation which sees our work as common grace for the common good, understanding the heaven-meets-earth character of the truest callings, where we see seamlessly because we see sacramentally— and therefore in and through our work we worship, what the Hebrew world and worldview called “avodah.” It was a mouthful, but it was a breakfast after all.
Do we have eyes to see? That is always the question, for the doctors of Fairfax County and for everyone everywhere.
(Lake Accotink the other night, a bike ride as the day was becoming done.)
This article was originally posted to The Commons blog from The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture.