The Bridge that Will Help You Connect

Golden Gate Bridge 001

On Sunday, May 29, NPR host Liane Hansen interviewed Dr. David Loxtercamp, the author of A Measure of My Days: The Journal of a Country Doctor. (Find a preview of the book purchased three I, coats save and home advertised comb and to.

Belfast, Maine, physician about a list of medical aphorisms he had been working on.  

As I heard him read these 14, I thought about how relevant to ministry that most of these are. The following is a portion of the transcript in which he reads these. He speaks about these ideas being what he has learned over the years as he has practiced medicine.

Health is not a commodity. Risk factors are not disease. Aging is not an illness. To fix a problem is easy, to sit with another suffering is hard. Doing all we can is not the same as doing what we should. Quality is more than metrics. Patients cannot see outside their pain, we cannot see in, relationship is the only bridge between. Time is precious; we spend it on what we value. The most common condition we treat is unhappiness. And the greatest obstacle to treating a patient’s unhappiness is our own. Nothing is more patient-centered than the process of change. Doctors expect too much from data and not enough from conversation. Community is a locus of healing, not the hospital or the clinic. The foundation of medicine is friendship, conversation and hope.

Patients cannot see outside their pain, we cannot see in, relationship is the only bridge between.

Implications for Everyday Ministry

1. It is very difficult for anyone to see outside their pain. Talk with anyone who is going through a divorce, undergoing cancer treatments, or has just experienced the death of a spouse. Very often this person is unable to see anything else but this pain. What that person does see is filtered and shaped by his own intense pain. This person is not to be criticized for this. This is the reality of pain.

2. Meanwhile, it is very difficult for the rest of us to see in. Sometimes a well-meaning person will say to someone in pain, “I know how you are feeling.” A person may say this because he has experienced a situation very similar. Or, if you are a minister, you may say this because you have been involved with other people in similar circumstances. Even so, one might want to think again about making this particular statement. Such a statement may suggest you can see inside their pain. Far better to be a listening presence than one who tries to convince another that he understands.

3. Relationship is the only bridge between. Perhaps this is where the greatest ministry can take place. When a person is in pain, what is most powerful is the relationship you already have. Your ministry is not a matter of you understanding what your friend is going through. Nor, is ministry dependent on your friend “opening up” to you or anyone else. You have a powerful ministry in simply being a friend and honoring your relationship. This is the bridge that exists between a person in pain and one who is on the outside looking in. The relationship you have with that person is the bridge. Consequently, being a faithful presence may mean much more than we may realize.


If relationship is the key bridge between a person in pain and a friend (family member, co-worker, minister, etc.) on the outside, what does a person do to honor that relationship?