The thing I dreaded most about starting work was having to conform to a rigid timetable, instead of, as a medical student, choosing whether to attend that ward round or not,being able to run off to a tutorial halfway through a long surgery, napping on the couch at lunch, or better still, catching up with friends over cafe brunches or lovely long lunches. I was (and still am) more concerned about whether I can wake up and turn up each day, rather than whether I am competent enough to work as a doctor.
I know many who become restless after a week or two at home. I really delight in days at home, and find many things to entertain myself with. Not that I like being idle, or clicking and refreshing aimlessly. But, for example, to be able to read the Bible, reflect, write, and pray, and go back and forth between each of these, without being in a rush, is infinitely better than reading several verses before jumping out of bed to get ready for work. Eating because you enjoy a well cooked meal is preferable to eating whatever happens to be in the fridge, because you simply have to eat. I hate trying to weigh up each day how much time I can read, and write, and still be reasonably functional the next morning. Having to wait many days or weeks later, when I have an afternoon or weekend off, to write down the thoughts floating through my head each day, is most frustrating. Even this post is one of those that has had many, maybe too many, weeks to ripen.
But, Ecclesiastes helps me to see things differently:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
Even when I first read the verse, probably about ten years ago, I loved it – the ancient poetry, the contrast, the repetition, the somewhat cryptic words that touches every aspect of daily life. I think though, I took the “a time for everything” as one would take that old song
Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be, will be…
There is a certain peace and wisdom in accepting that whatever will come, will come in its time, no matter how we fret, worry, and try to avoid it. But more than that, I’m beginning to see that the words are an expression of a trust in God, for his sovereignty, and wisdom in fulfilling his plans through all kinds of times and seasons. Elsewhere, throughout the Bible, it is clear that there is a time when man is to work, and a time when man is to rest. So in my tendency to run away from work, I take consolation not with hopeful optimism that work itself will be beautiful, but that God will make everything beautiful in its time. For without him, I would also say:
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. – Ecclesiastes 2:17
A wise friend once pointed out that letting go of the resentment towards waking up to an alarm clock, and the feeling that you could be something else (not medicine) with your life, was about sacrificing what were essentially self focused desires. I thought about that often. Perhaps now I see more of how there is a sacrifice of freedom and personal time to be made, if I am to faithfully carry out the work that God has ordained.
I am grateful too, for other aspects of daily life which God has made beautiful in his time. For weekends in the city, to meet friends and attend fellowship, but also for this quiet place. Because I am thankful that here in the middle of nowhere, I can get to know my co-interns better, but more importantly, I can focus on building this routine of wake up-work-exercise-eat-read-sleep-repeat. I am thankful for the years I have lived with families not my own, so that rarely would I return to an empty house, or have dinners alone. Thankful too, for the relationships in university, that has brought joy and companionship (as well as tears and difficult lessons). But it is valuable too, to have this season to learn to live, eat and explore alone, and be content with that. Finally, I am thankful for times like this where I can write, but I guess even when I can’t, participating in hospital life is a constant and endless source of inspiration for my writing.