Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


Doctor’s Hours & the Great Physician

I’ve talked about my dad on U&U before. Maybe too much! Permit me, please to do so once more.

Dr. Peacock was a yeller and a screamer, but he was also a very gifted healer.

Playing sick was no game. To get out of school, you had to provide evidence – scientific evidence. My dad would pull out his little black bag: listen to your heart, look down your throat, peer into your ears, palpitate your stomach, tell you to take two aspirin, and send you off to school.

Case closed.

“Too sick to go to school?” Norman Rockwell

Being a doctor, of course, my dad worked crazy hours: weekends, holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter – no exceptions. As a child, it seemed to me he was always making rounds. And on very rare occasions, I got to go ‘round with him and troop behind him, at the hospital like an acolyte

Be it bedside at the hospital or in the examining room at his office, Dr. Peacock gave his patients whatever time they required to heal.

He was forever coming home late. After dinner was over. After we had already gone to bed.

Healing requires a deep, deep well of patience. Healing is exhausting work – for both doctor and patient. 

In the Gospel of Luke, an incredibly patient patient approaches the Great Physician.

Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight. Jesus saw her, called her over, laid hands on her and said, “Woman, you are set free.”

And what seems to be a momentous and instantaneous miracle, really took eighteen years — eighteen years of hope.

 In 1stcentury Palestine, eighteen years is half a lifetime. Imagine struggling half your life with whatever ails your body, mind or soul. For some of us that might be a stretch. For others, struggles of a lifetime come easily to mind.

A chronic illness. Depression.

Poverty. Disability. Dysfunction. 

Dislocation. Isolation.

What cripples your body and soul?  What keeps you from living to the fullest your God-given life? 

How do you hold onto hope? 

Well, just ask Jesus – the Great Physician, who worked overtime on the sabbath. Healing work does not get a day off (to the chagrin of the powers that be). But after working weekends, Jesus is just exhausted as you or I would be.

Jesus’ reputation precedes him. A wonderworker who restores sight to the blind. A wonderworker who makes the lame to walk. Wherever he went, crowds pressed in upon him just to touch the hem of his cloak.

Jesus, just say the word and I shall be healed.

He cared, of course, for all who came to him. He got to everybody the best he could but even Jesus has only twenty-four hours in a day. Just like us he needs his eight hours of sleep and three-square meals. Time to gather his thoughts. Time to recharge his spirit.

And so, what does the Great Physician prescribe? 

Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.

That includes him. That includes everybody.

Sunday is the Christian sabbath (which we swapped out for Saturday, the seventh day of the week). God rested from hanging the stars and stocking the oceans. God rested on the sabbath and made it sacred.

The old Blue Laws, once upon a time, helped us to keep it holy. (Called blue, I know not why. Maybe because they made Sundays so boring?)

Once upon a time, when I was a little Roman Catholic kid, on Sundays we went to Mass. We slid into a back pew, squirmed in our seats, snoozed during the sermon, rattled off a few Hail Mary’s and nodded our heads in prayer.

Our Sunday afternoons after church were lazy and uneventful. Even my workaholic dad, Dr. Peacock put on a pair of jeans and puttered around his workbench. We read the funny papers, played board games, took cat naps. 

It was not let all mortal flesh keep silence. There were nine of us, after all, but we slowed way down. God gave us the gift of a lazy day.

Not so 21stcentury true, right? On Sundays we shop ‘til we drop. We’re glued to our devices, our smartphones and our MACS. We answer email. We return phone calls. We slip into the office.

(And by definition, I am literally required to work on the sabbath. Counting seminary, I’ve been working weekends for twenty-eight years!)

Sunday blurs into Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. You know what I mean.

Being summer, we are a little better at this but many of us schedule our vacations out the wazoo.

God created sabbath time for healing time – not busy time. So how to tell the difference? 

By following the example of the Great Physician, of course.

Pick a Sunday and give it a try. Try and see if you can keep it holy. 

If there is any truly healing work to do, you must do it, of course. But be honest, how much of that stuff you feel compelled to do is truly healing?

Otherwise, put down the newspaper. Leave the dishes in the sink. Leave the beds unmade. Go no further than your back yard. Swing in a hammock. Listen to music. Read a good book. Soak up a little silence along with the sun.

Close your eyes and listen. To the birds in the trees. The airplane overhead. The occasional breeze. Water gushing from a hose. Kids kicking soccer balls in the yard next door.

Tune into the sound of your breath. The rhythm of your beating heart.

Thank God for the life that surrounds you.

Thank God for the life within you.

And for twenty-four hours, let the world spin without you. 

Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.