The Day Everything Changed
So, yeah, last Thursday, on a busy morning, after I hurriedly pulled on scrubs to run across the street to the hospital I was stationed at, I heard it.
That still, small…voice.
Not a voice, exactly, or I might be required by professionalism to turn myself in for therapy.
Don’t leave yet.
So I did. And what followed blessed me beyond many things I have been blessed with in my life.
I got quiet for a moment, taking time to listen. And God spoke to me. He said, “This is the day that everything changes.” May 21, 2015. So I wrote it down.
You see, another healthcare professional might diagnose me with psychological problems. Delusions of grandeur. For daring to say what every Christian, and a lot of other people, know. I have a calling on my life.
It started when I was 7. Alone in an upstairs bedroom at our home in Puerto Rico, I had an encounter with Jesus. And it changed me forever. By the time I was 8, I knew my lifelong calling. I am a missionary. And a doctor.
Not so I can make a lot of money. (cue laughter from lawyers in Congress here…)
Not so I can be famous. (That part is up to God.)
But so that, one at a time, I can impact the lives of people. Human beings that God loves. Some will be saved, and embrace the faith that has kept me sane and given me my purpose and identity. Others will be served–their illness cured, their hurts heard, their concerns validated, their families strengthened. Others will be served in other ways–food, education, athletics, mentoring. Casa Gracias lives to serve. We aim to walk out the love of God in flesh and blood, mortal, imperfect bodies, so that people can know He is real.
But on that day in 1972, I had no idea how that day would lead to this.
I went back to my little bilingual elementary school, determined to love people and win souls. In first grade.
Every recess was a chance to witness. Every spelling test a step toward medical school. Doctors are weird like that. Many of us were, yeah, that goal-directed. That young. But God blessed my elementary school efforts. I won awards. And I started winning people to Jesus.
Along the way, stuff happened. When we’re young and we decide to yield to our callings, I think sometimes we think nothing bad will ever come. Like we’re in a war, but the enemy should give us a break just for being good soldiers.
But it doesn’t work that way. My family split up. Crazy stuff entered my life, like abuse. I was shielded from it, but it was there. In my house. Depression. Despair. Without any answers at home, I turned to the church.
The Methodists embraced me. And loved me. They trained me to be a leader, instructed me in song and theater and sent us out on the road. Winning souls. Preaching the Gospel.
High school was a blast. I had an encounter with the Holy Spirit that kicked everything to a whole new level. Owning the school. Winning the souls. Working with others. So. Much. Fun.
But inside, I was never satisfied. The calling burns. It’s like a sunburn on the inside; only satisfied if you apply the Noxzema of preaching, teaching and healing. It has nothing to do with fame; people misunderstand that. Everything to do with effectiveness. Faithfulness.
Cue college; free ride, National Merit, and all that. Miserable, because I felt farther from the mission field than ever. Dropped out of pre-med and got really spiritual; delivering food to the poor, going on mission trips. Not. Satisfied. On the inside.
So I married a preacher. Surely that would do it. Funny how that doesn’t work. You see, the calling was mine. Oh, we share parts of it, and he is my greatest confidante, advisor and advocate. But what God called me to was not to make someone else do it–it was to obey Him myself.
4 kids later, he takes a 20 year break from ministry. That’s putting it nicely. After a rough time in church. (Also putting it nicely). So what’s a drop-out missionary doctor, dropped-out preacher’s wife to do? Sigh. I got a clue and went back to school. Finished my bachelor’s in one semester (miracle 1) and got a free ride plus pay for my Master’s in Education (Miracle 2).
But the calling calls. So, one day, while I washed some dishes, that still small voice rose up inside of me. Whispered. Teasing; joyful. “You can still be a doctor.” By now, I had 5 kids. Little kids; the oldest was 7. But freedom called, and I was a goner.
5 years later, Master’s degree in hand, I entered the doors of UT Southwestern Medical School. 35 years old. Overweight. Mother of 5. How much weirder could this get? So weird that I passed. Not number 1 in the class, but without failing a single class. Taught by Nobel Prize winners. Lots of them. National Academy of Science members (I had never even heard of that before; trust me, it’s a big deal). At a medical school now ranked #6 IN THE WORLD for scientific rigor and difficulty. Yeah.
Someone asked a classmate once what medical school was like. I have adopted his reply. “Like eating glass,” he said. “Handfuls and handfuls of very sharp glass.” For many years.
When it was over, I found myself at a new church, enrolled in leadership training. Thank you, Eagle Mountain. I would spend 7 years there, and begin to make a contribution.
Suddenly one day, I hear that still, small voice again. And move. Away from everything, and everyone I know. Kids grown. Me and him, alone together again. George and Karen 2.0. And this is the time when God says, “Today is the day that everything changes.”
When I look at the heroes in Scripture, they weren’t that heroic. Their paths were convoluted. Their characters took development. Like mine.,
But I still have a calling. It is more mature, and more developed. I am more ready. It still burns inside of me, but the joy of waiting until the “fullness of time” can’t be matched by anything else. You learn this at fifty; maybe you didn’t know it at 7.
So stay tuned. Great things to come from Casa Gracias Ministries, medical and missionary both.
And follow your own God-given path. Don’t let them tell you it’s a delusion. There are amazing things planned for you.