There are a few things I am good at, but many things I'm bad at. Still other things I'm absolutely terrible at. Among them, I am a terrible patient. Other than a couple of childhood illnesses, I hadn't been sick a day in my life until a doctor diagnosed me with thyroid cancer. One surgery turned into three plus a bonus stay in the hospital to kill any remnant of thyroid tissue left behind with radiation.
Of the four hospitalizations in eighteen months, the time I spent in the special room with lead walls after drinking radioactive iodine was the worse. It was the only time of the four that I didn't have to cope with the effect of anesthesia and the pain of an incision, so I would have thought it would have been the easiest, but it wasn't, it was the worse.
It didn't start out well. I showed up right on time. When they were checking me in, the nurse brought me the standard issue hospital gown to wear. It didn't fit. "I need a larger size," I told the nurse, "this one is too small." She looked at the label and replied, "This one is a large, it's the biggest one we've got." "Wait a minute," I said, "Isn't obesity a major medical problem." "Yes," she replied. "Am I correct to assume that you have many patients that are my size or even larger?" "Yes," she said. "Then why don't you have a gown that fits?"
I guess this was a big deal to me because anything I wore in the room would be radioactive and would have to be destroyed. I never dreamed the hospital wouldn't have something to fit me, other hospitals had. Now I had nothing to wear.
It got worse. Government regulations dictate that a radiologist has to be present to administer the exact dosage of radioactive iodine. The medicine arrived in the room, and I waited. The doctor didn't show up. I buzzed the nurse, "When will the doctor get here?" I asked. She called down to the radiology department, "He's busy right now, he will be here when he can," was the reply I got.
For over two hours, I waited, with all my fears. We scheduled the admittance into the hospital at his convenience, where is he? I thought. Finally, he showed up. He was in the room for less than a minute as I sipped the radioactive iodine, and he left.
I was coping OK with the loneliness of quarantine most of the time. They brought my food on disposable trays and set it by the door. After they left, I could go get the food. I felt like a caged animal. It was tough when the nurses came in to take my vitals. They had to wear protective gear and couldn't touch me. To be honest with you, I felt like a leper.
Early in the morning on day 2, the safety officer checked me with his Geiger counter and said it was safe for me to leave the room. He would tell the head nurse, and she would sign me out and I'd be free to go. Perfect, I thought, I can still make the 10:00 Friday Morning Bible Study at the Church.
I called the church office and left a message on the machine to let the group know I would be there to teach. The class wouldn't start for three more hours, so I knew there would be no problem getting there on time.
Or so I thought. After an hour passed, I buzzed the desk. "The head nurse knows you are waiting, they said, but she has a lot to do this morning." The kind voice on the other end of the intercom said.
I continued to wait. She didn't come. I buzzed the desk again. "She's still busy," the nurse said, "she's in an important meeting." I looked at the clock, I needed to leave in 30 minutes or I wouldn't make the Bible Study. "The safety officer has cleared me to leave," I said, "please tell her that I'm a busy man too, and that if she doesn't come down to discharge me within the next 30 minutes, I'm leaving without the discharge."
That's exactly what happened. I know, I know, I acted like a jerk. I don't feel good about that. But as I've reflected on the event, I know what bothered me so much about the way I was treated. These people treated me as an inconvenience in their schedule, not as a person. And in doing so, they stripped me of my dignity.
My schedule was unimportant to the doctor that made me wait for hours when I came in, and to the nurse that was content for me to miss an important meeting rather than take five minutes out of her busy schedule to discharge me. I wasn't a person with a family that was worried about me or a church that needed me back in the office, I was a box on their "to-do lists" that could be checked whenever they got around to it. The whole experience was compounded by the fact that they didn't have a gown for me. I sat in my underwear for two straight days, without dignity.
In our text today, Jesus and His disciples walked past a blind man and in verse two, the disciples asked Jesus "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" (John 9:2 NASB) The man wasn't deaf, he was blind. He heard every word the disciples said.
This man had to cope with his disability, but that was the least of his problems, he also had to cope with the insensitivities and callousness of those that would strip him of his dignity. To add insult to injury, the question itself was ignorant. Verse one says he was born blind! How could that man of sinned before he was born? And who wants to hear that his parents are sinners?
"Jesus answered, 'It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.'" (John 9:3 NASB) Before performing the miracle, Jesus restored the man's dignity that his thoughtless disciples had just destroyed.
When you look at someone, do you see a person, or just an unwed mother or someone with body piercings? Are they an inconvenience in your day, a box in your "to-do list" or do you see them as someone that God can be glorified through?
People are more than the sum of their mistakes. Each person is created in the image of God! Each person is someone for whom Christ died. Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity.
Jesus spat on the ground and applied the spittle to his eyes. Why? Saliva was thought to have medicinal value in Jesus' day. To see how the ancients arrived at this, think about the first thing you do when you smash your finger. That's right, it goes right in your mouth.
After covering his eyes with the clay, Jesus sent the blind man on a errand. "'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam' (which is translated, Sent). And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing." (John 9:7 NASB)
Why didn't Jesus just heal the man? Why did He send Him on an errand? This wasn't just any errand. The pool of Siloam is a cistern at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs (Zondervan, v. 5 p437) Not easy for a blind man to navigate. Why would Jesus send him on this errand?
Well, for one thing, Jesus usually asks people to demonstrate their faith before He works a miracle in their lives. The servants that participated in the water to wine miracle did. The official whose son Jesus healed did. The man who was sick for thirty-eight years beside the pool in Jerusalem did. The little boy who gave Jesus his sack lunch did. Peter did, when he walked on the water, and now, so would the blind man. But there's more.
Jesus did not see this man as an invalid, he saw him as a person who could navigate the steps to the pool of Siloam. When he sent the man on the errand, he restored the man's dignity, and when the man exercised his faith, he restored his eyesight.
Sometimes, the miracle is in the journey as well as the destination. It is in the process as well as the result. God's miracles aren't always instantaneous, but they are always complete.
In all fairness, not everyone treated me with disrespect when I was in the hospital. My endocrinologist, who split his time between seeing patients and teaching in the medical school, treated me very well. The day I was admitted in the hospital wasn't a patient day for him, but because we had become friends, he came into the room shortly after I arrived. And he waited with me for over two hours until after the radiologist came. Why did he do that? He didn't want me to sit in that cold, lonely room alone.
And then there was a nurse on the graveyard shift. She came in my room around 3:00 A.M. to take my vitals. I guess she could see I was having a rough time, so she stayed and talked with me for a little while. And before she left, she put her hand on my shoulder, and said, "Hang in there, everything is going to be OK."
I hadn't been touched by anyone in over 36 hours. When she touched me, chills went up and down my spine and my dignity returned. For the first time in my life, I understood how the leper must have felt when Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. Or how the blind man felt when Jesus told the disciples, God would be glorified through him.