I’m leaving for a medical mission trip to Haiti for 2 weeks in a matter of days. Naturally, my life – aside from residency – has been largely focused on this big deal.
This is the season of Lent – a time of giving up and doing without, in Christian circles. Well, let’s be specific: Lent is commonly practiced in more traditional branches of Christianity where guilt historically ran its totalitarian regime on the human soul. Back then, the guilt-vibe generated extreme and wonderfully creative (in a Nazian sort of way) acts of suffering and penitence. Think dull iron hooks and exposed collar bones. Anyway, these days, many Lenten observers give up something rather level-headed, like T.V., to remind them of the suffering of Christ.
My family – slouching ever closer toward the Episcopal church, thanks largely to this wishy, squishy, lukewarm, doubtful Christian in the loosest sense of the word (as charged by my hyper-conservative heritage) – is observing Lent this year.
Wife is giving up chocolate. Eldest daughter is giving up goldfish (the crackers, not the creatures). Next daughter threw out the same. Things get hazy in the lower echelons. I’m trying to give up desert, but…lukewarm, you see. We’re all giving up restaurants.
But what we’re really giving up is 2 weeks when I’m in Haiti, doing work I had once hoped to do full-time. Truth is, I sold my soul to medicine in a mist of Christian charity back when I was debt-free, young, rather dumb and convinced I could do anything. Something about, “if God is for us, who can be against us?”
Then I ended up $300,000 in debt and unlikely to be free of it until after retirement. Couple that with the recent incident where guys uttering something similar to the above scripture – but in Arabic – blew up the World Trade Center and Pentagon in firey madness. Suddenly, relativism and reality colluded to hamper as many elements of my personal life force as existentially possible.
So, I’m soon off to do for 2 weeks – jaded, hopeless about the lofty ideals I once had for my career – what I once had hoped to do with my professional life. Not the last 5 years of it, but the first 40. And to do these 2 weeks, my kids will give up their Dad. For some of the younger and more empirical kids, there will be a lingering question about whether or not Dad is gone forever. The older ones will have to deal with a MUCH quieter and decidedly feminine-heavy abode, with all the accompanying sorrows drama and virtues.
My wife will give up my daily witty commentary on politics and my clothes flung to every corner of the house (actually, her Lent may get under way not long after I return). She will also take care of everyone by herself for 2 weeks. I flatter myself to suggest that this is much different that usual…but I suppose I have put a diaper on someone in the past month or so.
Me? I can’t say I’m giving up much at all. My passion for travel and curiosity about the rest of the world trumps the negatives of dusty, sweaty days in a medical clinic.
Long ago, I figured I needed to just be honest and admit that the reason I wanted to be a missionary had much more to do with the love of knowledge and travel that it did the lost souls of Ximbiaha. Sure, Jesus loved me enough to die for my purity and for our relationship – yeah, I really do actually believe that, lukewarmness notwithstanding – and if you push me you’ll find that I do have a reasonable amount of energy for passing some semblance of that kind of altruism on to someone else. So, Haiti won’t be much of a sacrifice for me. There are lots of upsides in my world. It’s a brier patch sort of thing.
Except that malaria is endemic there. So’s dengue and typhus. I gotta say, if I end up crapping my innards out for 3 weeks…consider my debt to Lent paid in FULL!