Seeing through the “retrospectoscope”

Daily Office readings for Sunday, April 14:

Psalm 148, 149, 150 (Morning)

Psalm 114, 115 (Evening)

Daniel 4:1-18

1 Peter 4:7-11

John 21:15-25

Psalm 115 (NRSV):

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,

for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.

Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”

Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.

They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.

They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;

they make no sound in their throats.

Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.

O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.

O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.

You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.

The Lord has been mindful of us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel;

he will bless the house of Aaron;

he will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great.

May the Lord give you increase, both you and your children.

May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to human beings.

The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence.

But we will bless the Lord from this time on and forevermore. Praise the Lord!

Reading the “deliverance” Psalms always seems particularly fitting during Easter, given the emotional overlap between Passover and Easter. Deliverance is a reminder that “it’s all about trust.” Probably each of us can recall our own times of deliverance.

What’s interesting is that deliverance is one of those things that tends to only be seen fully through what I like to call the “retrospectoscope.” (Remember, I make a living from all the bits and pieces internists and surgeons snag through a variety of devices with the suffix -scope at the end of their names.)

You know, the best “scope drivers” I know at my hospital are the ones who occasionally retro-flex the scope as it makes its way through the gastrointestinal tract, stop, and look around. I mean REALLY look around. Oh, they’re all taught to retro-flex the scope and look every so many centimeters during the procedure, but that moment that has a pregnant-enough pause in the moment to really stop and look, are the ones who often find the very tiny polyps, so small they are almost certainly benign. That moment of turning the scope around backwards and stopping for a moment can be crucial in saving a patient from malignancy, because a certain percentage of those polyps will go on to cancer. It too, is a moment of deliverance.

Seeing Easter as a time for looking back is not an intuitive thing. Our tendency, of course, is to look forward towards all those new things ahead, under the protection of the God who makes all things new. Yet without that perspective of the retrospectoscope, the fullness of the meaning of deliverance is not always appreciated.

Retrospectoscopic review, however, does come with a price–from another angle, we might see the polyps and cancers we might otherwise have missed. We might have to revisit something and try to reconcile it to a spiritually healthy state. Ultimately, though, it is a part of the process of moving forward into restoration and resurrection. It keeps us from letting old lesions fester and worsen.

What can you see when you peek through your own retrospectoscope, with an eye for resurrection?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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