I think back to moments of excitement along the way. Standing on the sidewalk looking up at the building, dreaming of the day I might be a student in that medical school. The letter of acceptance and the way I flew through the day, my heart singing as I played in a concert that evening. Five years later, hurrying across the Pakistani yard to receive the phone call welcoming me into the specialty training program. Another five years and the paper, “Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.” The first time I delivered a baby. Did surgery. Helped keep a woman from bleeding to death.
I can treasure the memories now without wanting to be back there. I realized it last week, the day before I gave up my license to practice medicine. There was an ad on the counter for a clinic four blocks from home offering multidisciplinary care in multiple languages. Exactly the job I had dreamed of two years ago. Last week I saw the ad and . . . nothing. No interest. No desire. In its place, a fresh anticipation and joy and deep sense of privilege as I embrace the new call. And I realize that what seemed impossible a year ago is now done, this changing of my heart to allow me to embrace God’s new call. It seems a small miracle. Maybe a large one.
The next day I read it in a friend’s newsletter:
“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” (Hudson Taylor)
I’m slow to remember. I think of “great works of God” as happening on a larger scale. On the other side of the world. In groups of people. Other people. I keep forgetting that the daily changes needed in my own heart are equally impossible for me to accomplish. Almost daily now I catch myself. “Is this something else I’m trying to do that only God can do in me?”
Paul puts the question bluntly:
How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? . . . . Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? (Galatians 3:2-5 The Message)
The next day the last chapel service of advent opens with this call to worship:
“. . . We gather in expectation
for joy is about to explode in our midst.
We gather in celebration
For we are those people who have said
Yes to the manger,
Yes to love enfleshed
Yes to the one incarnate for others
Yes to the wholeness of God! . . .”
It’s just a yes, this is all. This is how we embrace the impossible. We say our yes to the God who waited only for the virgin’s “yes” before entering her womb. Yes to the God who waits to enter our darkest places and fill them with His light.
Yes to his work in us, the work that only He can do. And yes to each small way He asks us to participate, often, mostly, through waiting. Listening. Making space for life to grow. And one day we discover that what was previously impossible is now done, the next step complete in the ongoing miracle of His life being formed in us.
Then only one yes remains: the yes that shamelessly and without reserve enters the celebration of the One who has done it all.
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! . . .
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him. . . .
He remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. . . .
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
(Luke 1:46-55 The Message)