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Home > 2014 > February Online Only > The Way We Do Things Here

I recently moved to a city without doctors. Well, there are doctors, just not any taking new patients. The situation is so acute that the government has set up a province-wide website for registering the backlog. You enter your name and contact info and then hope that some physician has an opening—someone moves, or dies—and picks you to fill it.

It's kind of like e-Harmony for sick people.

Normally this wouldn't bother me. I'd rather set my own bones, disinfect my own wounds, than seek a doctor's help. It's not that I don't like doctors; I don't like waiting.

But then I had to change my driver's license. This should have been a quick 10-minute procedure and a quick $100. As of this writing, it's been a two-month ordeal. The problem is, I needed a doctor. My class of license requires a medical exam to renew or transfer. The doctor must vouch for my eyesight, hearing, reflexes, mental stability, and overall health.

I tried using one of the many walk-in clinics scattered around the city. But because of the shortage of doctors, these are jammed full morning 'til night, with three- to four-hour wait times. I hate waiting. So I wasted six hours looking.

Then a miracle: my wife found me a doctor, only five minutes from my work! I was elated. She booked me an appointment the next afternoon. I showed up and took a seat. A few minutes later, Dr. Houbi walked in.

"What can I do for you, my friend?" he asked.

I waved the medical form at him. I explained that I needed him to check my eyesight, hearing, and blood pressure, ask if I was crazy, then fill out the form, and I'd be on my way.

"Friend, how about first we get to know each other."

"Well," I said. "That sounds, umm, nice. But see, this form"—I showed it to him again—"it's kind of time-sensitive. Maybe I could come back next month, or next year, and we could get to know each other then. Today, I'm sort of in a rush. I just need you to complete this form."

"My friend," Dr. Houbi said, "we do not do things that way here. First we get to know each other."

And so, after several weeks and an EKG and reams of blood work and stool and urine samples and Dr. Houbi poking and prodding me in my secret in-most places, we got to know each other. Intimately, I'd say.

Oh, and he completed the form. The license is on its way.

That's a long story to illustrate a simple point: My friend, we do not do things that way here. First, we get to know each other. That could be God talking. That it's my Muslim doctor from Syria simply enriches the poignancy and irony.

I have made impatience a virtue. I call it urgency, a let's-get-it-done attitude. In some areas it's been one of my greatest strengths. I actually get things done. In most areas, though, impatience is my besetting sin.

In traffic. In waiting rooms. In relationships. In worship. In discipleship. In all these and more, it is not a quality that serves me well. Most things that matter take time. They cannot be forced or rushed. They can only be treasured and savored, or else missed entirely.

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Mark Buchanan is pastor of New Life Community Baptist Church in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada.

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