by the Rev. Paul McLain
During a recent conversation about the overload of tasks, information, distressing news, and distractions that so many of us are experiencing these days, a wise person observed, “we are all becoming triage artists.” By that he meant we all, even retirees, are learning to prioritize the vast amount of our external stimuli in the instant, milli-second ways that emergency room personnel and working parents must do moment-by-moment. That phrase, triage artists, has stayed with me the last couple of weeks. I wonder how faith can help us find artistry in the middle and muddle of all our triaging.
An artist can see the unseen and somehow evoke that through a painting, a piece of music, a dance, or in countless other ways and media. As we prioritize the many stimuli before us, I wonder if we can sift through those that are most important and see what connective thread lies between and beneath them. It may be a long-term problem, opportunity, yearning, or hope that we have put aside addressing or even bringing to consciousness because we are always bandaging the short-term scrapes and wounds of the moment. It is helpful to retreat for a while and give ourselves the gifts of time and space to breathe, to reflect, and to pray.
Much of the Gospel stories are about interruptions that Jesus had to triage, often while he was praying or on his way to pray. He saw beyond the short-term situations before him and examined the deeper needs of each person or group he encountered. While he healed physical blindness in the moment, he prompted those before him, including us, to come to terms with the longer-term problem of spiritual blindness and to begin to join him in finding a more lasting healing.
Triage artistry involves nurturing the inner core of our hearts and minds so that the most important stimuli in our lives come from within instead of from without. We then become actors rather than reactors. As the apostle Paul puts it, “We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)