It was that time of year once again, time for my annual physical; and I had been dreading it as badly as one can dread anything. But my dread was for reasons beyond the obvious. You know, those backless gowns, horrible vinyl examination tables, and being put into positions – literally – that rob you of all dignity (When I complain about these things to my wife she says that only after I have had a mammogram and my ankles in the stirrups will she begin to feel sorry for me; she makes a valid point).
No, I hate going to the doctor because I hate feeling so exposed, and I’m not talking about the physical nakedness. When put under the stethoscope-bearing, X-ray-shooting, blood-sucking, prescription-writing interrogation of a skilled physician, your life has a way of telling on you. You can no better hide your secrets than you can hide your rear end while wearing one of those tie-behind frocks.
Having you been smoking? It will surely show up in the blood tests. Have you been boozing? Your liver will rat you out. Are you under too much stress or exercising too little? Your blood pressure reading will tell the tale. Have you been stretched out on the sofa eating cheesy puffs every day? Then your LDL cholesterol will backstab you quicker than you can scarf down a Ho-Ho cake.
The examination, the lab results, the endless questionnaires, the rubber-gloved poking and prodding: These all have a way of pointing to the truth of how the patient has lived his or her life. And this is exactly why I hate going to the doctor. I prefer – like all of us – to keep my secrets, secret. I am a believer in the old Delphian maxim: “Know Thyself.” I just don’t like others to know me as well as I do; but this is what my doctor cannot abide. He wants everything bare and in the open.
Honestly, I should appreciate my physician’s nosy persistence, because he runs me through the ringer each year with my overall health in mind. He wants me to enjoy the best well-being possible. Thus, his goal is not to punish, embarrass, or shame me. His goal is that I be well, free from disease, and make any necessary changes to maintain a fitness for life.
My doctor’s annual assault against my privacy each year is simply a part of this process. He is holding me accountable and working to accomplish one of the most difficult things imaginable with a human being: Forcing me to face the truth about myself and how I live my life.
That is the same point made by the writer of Hebrews when he speaks of the Scriptures as “Sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating to divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it reveals the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible isn’t a giant stick used to bash in the brains of those who do not believe or behave as we wish they would. It’s not an instrument of shame whereby violators of our interpretations are exposed and left hanging in the breeze (though some practitioners use the Bible exactly in this fashion).
No, it is a powerful, spiritual tool of personal examination. It opens up our hearts, spirits, and minds revealing how we have lived our lives. And when necessary, the Scriptures give us the required intervention – the ability to change our lives if we wish to change – and improve our health and well-being. No, the Bible is not like an unskilled, bone-sawing quack that does more harm than good. It is a benevolent, healing physician that encourages us to get and be better.
Complaining aside, my annual physical did reveal a little trouble. Nothing life-threatening (not yet any way); but to stay away from bigger problems I’m going to need some additional medication, healthier habits, and a few lifestyle modifications. See, my future health requires that I change; and change requires that I be honest with who and where I am today.