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A Meth Lab, The ER, Judgment And Grace

Last week a trailer less than a mile from our house experienced a small explosion. Trailers, which seldom explode on their own (without undiscovered volcanoes or CIA drones with missiles) was concealing a meth lab.

What can you say? If I weren’t an emergency physician I’d say, “Shocking! Ghastly! Unbelievable!” But I do what I do so I say, “Huh, how about that.”

I’ve lost much of my capacity to be shocked. I have seen meth users, and probably meth dealers. I’ve known and enjoyed the company of alcoholics and Valium addicts. I’ve cared for murderers and the murdered (albeit briefly in the case of the latter). I’ve been involved in the evaluation of sexual assault victims, car thieves, drunk drivers and child abusers. A meth lab is, in its own way, kind of small stuff.

What does it say about me? I don’t know. It may suggest that I’m cynical. Or it may mean that I’m cold. Or it may mean, as I suspect it does, that I’m just realistic. I know the world is full of drugs and brokenness. The ER, where I work, is just the place where all of it arrives in its fermented, fully concentrated, “contents under pressure” form.

I feel sad that the neighborhood had a meth dealer. I feel sorry that he had to be airlifted to the regional burn center. I never met him, but we waved at each other as I drove by. I feel vaguely uneasy, in retrospect, that we road our bikes past his pack of dogs week after week. However, I never felt any sense of dread, just a sense of canine annoyance. After all, they weren’t big dogs, just loud dogs. The kind a meth dealer who really doesn’t want to hurt anybody.

I feel sad that he gave in to the evil of manufacturing and selling illegal, addictive, life-altering drugs. I find it unfortunate that he didn’t listen closer in Meth Chemistry 101.

But strangely I feel no real sense of judgment. Discernment? Yes, he was wrong. Concern for my family? Absolutely. Drugs are dangerous on many levels, biological and cultural. But not judgment.

Because just as I’m no longer shocked by much of anything, I’m no longer able to view others as trash, scum or any other pejorative in light of my understanding of my own sinfulness and my own redemption by grace.

The emergency room desensitized me, so that I could see everyone as a sinful person in need of something (medication, surgery, truth or salvation) without being scandalized.

Still, I’d be happy to find that we’re fresh out of meth labs.


*This blog post was originally published at*

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