Focus on the Big Picture

I still remember my first patient in medical school as if it was yesterday.

It was the summer of 2000 when I started my surgical clerkship in a large county hospital.  That place had anything and everything one could possible imagine with respect to the spectrum of disease and humanity.  Young, old, a ton of homeless patients, drug and alcohol addicts, psychiatric illness galore…  The Emergency Room was more like a zoo when one considers the noises and the smells there…

So with this context in mind, imagine my first week on the surgical rotation.  My first patient was a homeless 60-year-old man who smoked 1-2 packs per day for about 45 years.  As a result he had severe vascular disease and was in the process of losing his leg to dry gangrene due to lack of circulation.  To make the problem worse, he became addicted to narcotic pain medicine while in the hospital.

I walked into his room one day on rounds to examine him, and irritated he said to leave him alone because he needs to focus.  Focus on what?

Then I noticed he was holding his Morphine PCA (patient controlled analgesia) button in his hand and looking at the medication pump screen intensely.  He figured out the PCA formula down to the last detail, and was trying to maximize the amount of narcotic he would receive from the machine.

He figured out that the machine would dispense a morphine bolus only after a 10 minute lock out.  Furthermore, as a safety check, the machine was programmed to dispense a certain maximum amount each hour regardless of the lockout intervals and the number of times the patient pushes the button.  He learned the way the machine worked, and when I walked in he knew he had about 5 minutes before it would respond to another push.

He was so focused on counting down the minutes and seconds to the expiration of the lockout interval that he would not even talk to me about the grand picture, which was the upcoming surgery to fix the problem in his leg.

This world and the sin around us work in a similar way.

Those who have not found God are so entrenched into the world and into sin that they cannot grasp the big picture.  They would rather focus on the next vain pleasure than step back and realize that they are on the road to perdition.

Consider what Paul writes in Romans 6:23 about the outcome of being a slave to sin:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”

Focus on sin leads to death.

Salvation by the free gift of God leads to eternal life in Jesus.