Monday, February 16, 2009

Substance over the symbol...

I'm not sure if I always wanted to be a nurse or not--I believe there may have been a few other ambitions thrown into the mix of my childhood wannabes, but at the age of thirteen I became a candy striper at the hospital and that sealed the deal.

My mom had a friend who worked in the admissions office at Charlotte Memorial (now Carolinas Medical Center) and during the summer between my seventh and eighth grade years of school I got up every morning at six a.m., rode over to Nell's house, and worked the seven to three o'clock shift with her. In those days, candy stripers did not simply deliver flowers. I was allowed to do things that I cannot imagine someone so young doing today.

Once, I was assigned to help in the recovery room and I clearly remember a nurse stationing me at the bedside of an elderly gentleman. She told me to watch his bare chest rise and fall and if I saw him quit breathing for more than fifteen seconds or so, I was to pop his breastbone and tell him to breathe. I did that for about an hour--and to this day I can still picture his curly gray chest hair. He lived. At least until after I left the Recovery Room.

From that day on, everything about helping someone get well fascinated me. The sounds of life-saving machinery, the smell of phenol and alcohol, the squeaks of gurney wheels, even the unpleasant odor of burns or infected wounds--all of these things made me want to be there in the midst of the chaos and curing.

In Numbers 21 and 22, a medical symbol that I first saw on my pediatrician's office wall as a child appears. After a zig zag route around Edom toward Mount Hor, scripture says that the children of Israel began to speak against God and Moses. They were frustrated that they seemed to be going in the opposite direction of their destination and were angry that they'd been led out to the wilderness to die.

Previously, their complaints had been against Moses only, but this time, they didn't hold back, adding accusations against God. As you might guess this didn't please God one bit, so he responded by sending fiery poisonous snakes their way. Many people were bitten and subsequently died, so the Israelites quickly confessed their sin and begged for Moses to pray that God would take away the snakes.

It's interesting to note that rather than just sending the snakes away, God told Moses to make a replica of the snake, attach it to a pole, and tell the people that if bitten they were to look at the bronze snake to be healed.

This "suffering symbol" would serve as a reminder of their sinful murmuring, and I'm confident that the threat of being bitten at any time probably did as well. There is no logical explanation given for God's prescribed method for curing their condition, but if they simply looked at the pole, they lived. If they refused to look they died. 1 Corinthians 1:27 explains that sometimes God's seemingly illogical methods are actually very purposed.

27 God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

Here's what Jesus Christ had to say about this event in John chapter 3:

14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

God is so consistent. Everything he did then, everything he does now, and everything he will do in the future has meaning and purpose. And even though the American Medical Association's old logo that depicted a snake on a pole may not have looked like the cross that many scholars believe the symbol Moses made probably resembled, it is still remarkable to me that all these years later we find that scripture continues to impact our culture.

Life came to the children of Israel if they would only look up at a symbol that God chose to be the source of their healing. Today, if we will "look up" at the Son of Man, Jesus, who suffered in our place when he was lifted up as God's one and only means for our spiritual, eternal healing, we can live.

For some, it seems foolish. To those of us being saved, it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1: 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment