By Eunice Park, MD
Internal Medicine, Loma Linda California
John 4:35 – “…Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest.”
When I was a fourth-year medical student, I had an encounter with an emergency room patient that I will never forget.
She was an older woman who came in with a large periorbital ecchymosis after falling and hitting her head. She was very drunk and a ‘frequent flyer’ who was coming in again for the same problem: ground-level fall after drinking too much. She was singing merrily as I approached her, not a care in the world and as happy as could be. She couldn’t quite remember all the details of how she got there, but she was happy, very happy—quite, quite happy, in fact, thank you! There was no problem, no problem at all! “I love alcohol!” she said, smiling broadly. “I don’t have any issues with it! What issues could I have? It’s so much fun to drink!”
There was something about her manner that was a little too merry for her current predicament. She quieted down as I continued to interview her, and by the time I came back to tell her the plan, she was sitting there pensively in her bed. I had a nagging feeling that I should address her drinking again.
“If I may ask you something,” I ventured cautiously. She smiled, this time a little wanly, and nodded. I hesitated a moment, then plunged forward. “You mentioned that you like alcohol…but it doesn’t seem to like you.”
The words hung heavily for a moment, and then she nodded quietly. “Why do you like drinking?” I asked her.
“It makes me forget stuff,” she replied.
“…what kind of things?”
“Memories,” she said, softly. “Painful memories of parents left behind, a dalliance with a married man—all the folly of youth.”
“Do you feel guilty?” I asked her.
“Oh, yes,” she said, bitterly. “It never leaves you.”
She looked so different from that merry patient I had seen just a few moments before. I hesitated again, then said, very softly, “You may not be able to forgive yourself, but there is Someone who can.”
She sat there frozen for a split second, then suddenly she smiled at me. “You know, you are right,” she said to me. She suddenly had a hopeful look upon her face.
“May I pray with you?” I asked her. She clasped my hands firmly as she beckoned yes. I prayed for her to find forgiveness and victory over sin in her fight against alcohol, and for her to give her guilt to Jesus. As I finished the prayer, she began weeping and grabbed me in a tight hug.
“I love you!” she told me, clinging to my hands. “I need to make a decision—yes or no!”
That night I went home and prayed for her to be triumphant in her victory over sin. I pray she found in Jesus a sin forgiving Savior.
I realized that day that thirsting souls can be found among the unlikeliest of people, and all we have to do is respond to the Holy Spirit leading us.