“Don’t Tell The Old Man!” (2 Samuel 11:25)

“Oh great, he didn’t take care of that urgent case.” My attending physician was nonplussed as he entered his office. Two other attending physicians were present, sifting through dozens of cases that needed to be signed out. One looked up and sighed, “Yup. It was left on his desk over an hour ago.”

“I’ll take care of it.” He shook his head as his eyes wandered to the ceiling. “Just don’t tell the old man!”

I was present for a conversation that I should not have heard. I was a third year medical student, doing my first rotation in surgical pathology. My mentor, the old man, was a giant amongst hospital surgical pathologists. The fame and reputation of this hospital’s pathology department was built upon his diagnostic acumen. I was honored to work and learn from him and the experience solidified my decision to choose pathology for my medical specialty. 

Yet, even at this nascent stage of my career, I was aware of his shortcomings. It began by blaming others for his mistakes. The surgeon did not provide enough clinical information. The radiologist biopsied the wrong lesion. While there may have been some truth to these accusations, with time, it was clear that most of the errors were his alone. I was embarrassed for my mentor and privately hoped that he would quietly retire, before he would be directly confronted by his colleagues or the hospital administration. 

As I near the end of my career, I wonder if a similar fate awaits me? Will my colleagues be making excuses for me, covering for my omissions and errors? I pray that God will show me when it is time to gracefully exit and I will take responsibility and retire before being confronted by others and forced to accept my shortcomings. But what about the present? Do I make excuses for my sins, dismissing or minimizing them, only to reluctantly acknowledge them when confronted by others?

When King David had an adulterous affair with Bathesheba who became pregnant, he orchestrated a sinister plot with one of his generals, Joab, to cover up his sin. David instructed Joab to have his troops withdraw from Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, when he was fighting in the front lines. When David later learned of Uriah’s inevitable death, he dismissed his guilt and even gave this false issuance of encouragement to Joab and his soldiers. 

“Well, tell Joab not to be discouraged,” David said. “The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow! Fight harder next time, and conquer the city!”

2 Samuel 11:25 (NLT)

The sheer audacity and horror of David’s comments were not hidden from God who confronted David’s egregious sin through His prophet, Nathan. Only at that point did David acknowledge his own sin and write these words of contrition. 

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.

Psalms 51:4-6 (NLT)

Does it take a direct admonition from God before I confess and repent of my sins and take responsibility for my own actions? Sadly, God has chastised me many times for unconfessed or overlooked sins. When I sin, it hurts many people, and I need to restore the relationships. But the most important and first relationship that needs to be restored is with God. He alone needs to hear my first confession and repentance. 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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