Discipleship on the Move – MD Issue #38

Written by Dr. Cameron Wagner

July 1st is an exciting time for surgery residencies across the country.

Each year, a fresh batch of general surgery residents will choose to embark upon a five-year grueling journey to develop into a masterful surgeon—an intense training that will require grit, resiliency, sleepless nights, time away from family, devoted study, and immense sacrifice—a decision not taken lightly.

A pager is handed to each eager intern (first year surgery resident) with a firm handshake on the eve of starting. Though nervous and a little unsure about the upcoming months, the intern is warmly ushered into a family of other surgery residents who have gone before them—a surgical family each intern will learn to closely depend upon throughout the challenging first year. 

As a chief resident (5th year surgery resident), I am given the responsibility of teaching new interns the art of surgery. Two first-year residents assigned to my surgical service will stay closely by my side for the entire first month. We will truly live life together. From early morning hours of rounding, emergency codes, traumas, extensive surgeries, educational conferences, meals, to late night call shifts—interns will look to me to model, though imperfectly, what it means to be a surgical resident. I am humbled by the weighty role I am given. As a chief resident, you are a guide, a counselor when they experience their first death or surgical complication, a problem solver, an encourager for moments of tears — most importantly, a faithful friend for the challenging season ahead. 

As my time as a surgical resident is coming to a close soon, I have been struck by the similarities between my surgical training and Jesus’s imperative command to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). As the perfect chief resident, the Great Surgeon, Jesus first calls us to Himself—to know Him intimately, to find joy in Him, to become more like Him. He is our comforter, counselor, encourager, guide, the friend who sticks closer than a brother, that we can boldly approach. Available at all hours. He calls us His friend when we obey His commands (John 15). To follow Him is no easy path. Jesus calls for a fully devoted heart, one that is undivided in passion.

To know Christ is to walk a narrow road that will require immense sacrifice, a spiritual grit, sleepless nights, devoted study, time away from family, suffering—a total denial of self.

A task no surgical resident nor any human could ever obtain on their own merit except for the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. With a new heart we can run to Him, whose yoke is easy and burdens are light. We can trust in His promises and hope fully in Him as we fight sin by the Spirit and eagerly await His return. 

When we gaze upon Him, when we hunger for His Word, we begin to follow His steps in identifying other individuals who are in need of a physician. Jesus clearly calls us to make disciples of all nations. Like a seasoned resident leading a young intern on Day 1, making disciples calls us to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone, to live life together. Your personal time is sacrificed for dinner table discussions, late-night phone calls, family meals, a collective study of the Word of God, prayer, worship, confession, and a strengthening of hands. You are available. You emulate Christ as you selflessly invite people into your home, into your daily routine, into your church family.

Your glorious burden is not for others to love you more but rather to know Christ more, to make Him known to the nations.

We are invited to partake in something far greater than any surgical residency training nor are we at this alone—in Christ we joyfully stand together as a spiritual family bringing good news to those in need of a physician.