Tuesday, October 12, 2010

If I had a sinus problem in Swaziland . . .

. . . well actually, if I lived in Swaziland the odds are I wouldn’t know that I had a sinus infection.  If I noticed a few symptoms, I wouldn’t think of going to the clinic for what seems like a minor discomfort. There would be no lab tests, no X-rays or CT scans. I wouldn’t worry about taking antibiotics too often and lowering my resistance; there are no antibiotics available. I wouldn’t be considering treatment options; there is no treatment and are no options. I wouldn’t learn how to rinse out my sinuses with warm, clean saline water; there is no clean water available and certainly no place to purchase a little product like a Nettie Pot. I would learn to live with the burning eyes, the green, smelly mucus coming out of my nose, the pressure headache. And as my life went on, if I experienced more pain and discomfort or perhaps even more serious issues like meningitis, brain abscess or infections in my eyes or scull, I would have no idea that these problems were connected to living with an infection that would have been easily treated in most of the world.

But I live in America, not Swaziland. I have no intention of living with the symptoms of chronic sinusitis. I find it unacceptable that an infection should reoccur 7 or 8 times a year, so I demand, and get, answers. I have access to expert ENT physicians (at Stanford today) and health insurance to pay for it. I have a job that provides me with “sick time” so I don’t have to lose income when I take a day for the Stanford consultation. I have a well running vehicle to drive myself there. Here in America it is relatively easy, via CT scans and exams, for the doctor to determine that surgery is required reconstruct my sinus cavity and make “space” so that fungal treatment can be effective. This morning, I’m grateful to God for his mercy; very grateful that I have access to expert diagnostic and medical care from Dr. Richard Demera in Fresno and Dr. Hwang at Stanford Medical Center.

But as I reflect on this contrast, I’m also sensing conviction that simple gratitude could actually be problematic. We were reminded at church a few weeks ago that first century rabbis would awaken each day and pray "Blessed art thou, O God, for not making me a Gentile, slave, or woman." Once realizing what I have access to, things that so many in the world do not, I’m sensing that if I am moved to gratitude alone it is like praying, “Blessed art thou, O God, for not making me a poor sick woman who lives in a country like Swaziland?”

I have no ability to provide ENT expertise to Swaziland. But I do have the ability to do something. I think perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul meant, when he asked us to reflect on God’s mercy:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1

Oh that our gratitude would move us beyond mere words to action.

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