My guest blogger today is Marv Hage, whose blog (healingagents.blogspot.com) is one of my favorites.
Marv is my brother-in-law, which is nice, because I didn’t have to pay for this. Beyond the family connection, he’s also a physician. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Medicine, he had a private practice in obstetrics and gynecology in Ann Arbor for a number of years, and then taught on the faculty at the Duke University School of Medicine. He is currently semi-retired and lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he is an elder at the First Presbyterian Church. He is the author of two books, Equipping Healing Agents: Sustaining Vocation and Healing Agents: Christian Perspectives, both about the vocation of healing.
He and I talk about healing often when we’re together at family gatherings, and I wanted my readers to listen in on our conversation.
Doug: It’s relatively easy to understand how you would think of yourself as a healer, because you’re a physician, but how is a follower of Jesus supposed to think of him or herself as a healer?
Marv: Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of your blog. It is important for your readers to realize that you have had an important and significant influence on my thinking.
The question is more difficult than you might believe in that I do not see my vocation as “healer.” More positively, I think more of how Jesus was the model for me to be His “healing agent.” He has given all of us “marching orders” to act as his agents (disciples) in this world.
The second part of the question is a little easier given my first response. What I think is hard for all of us in being “healing agents” is to clearly understand the barriers in living out that response.
Doug: I think it’s interesting that as a physician you don’t think of yourself as a “healer”! But I want to focus on the last comment – namely, that there are “barriers to living out that response.” I take it you mean that we are called to be healers ourselves, but that some things get in the way. Would you identify some of those barriers and tell us why they are barriers?
Marv: Identifying the barriers is very dependent on the practice environment. One of the advantages in changing practice locations has been the perspective that it brings. Starting surgical procedures with prayer is a given at mission hospitals like Tenwek in Kenya [where Marv has worked for a month at a time over the last few years] and very uncommon in the United States.
The underlying barrier to the vocation of healing has been the dominance of the scientific/technological understanding of the practice of medicine. There was a time that the Protestant church had a significant impact on the education for and provision of healing care.
Doug: Interesting. So, would you say the practice of medicine in our culture today discourages us from thinking in terms of healing? What are we left with then? And how can we reclaim the idea that healing can help us understand our calling?
Marv: “Yes,” but there are some important exceptions. Specifically, nursing education continues to address the healing dimension in our culture. So one response is to listen and learn from our colleagues in nursing. Another example can be found in the world of literature. “Cutting for Stone” a wonderful novel by Abraham Verghese had a tremendous impact.
My question for you is “what do Christians believe about healing?” My experience is that mainline Protestant churches have restricted their response or have just gone along with the scientific culture.
Doug: A good point. Presbyterians tend not to think in these terms. We’re more comfortable with language about life change and the forgiveness of sins than the language of becoming whole, but Jesus clearly saw forgiveness, transformation, and healing as belonging together. With your encouragement over the years, I have started to think more and more about my work as healing the lives of broken people.
Thanks so much for having this conversation with me. I’m sure we’ll be having more.