When there’s a breakdown in some families, you can sometimes find that everyone is clear that if ONE person changed, everything would be fine. “If she just got her act together… if it wasn’t for her… if she just wasn’t here…” What’s clearest, to anyone looking in from the outside, is that the problems, breakdowns or frustrations all stem from the presence and nature of one person.
Ever been “the identified patient?” It’s a lousy position in which to be. Any move you make, any breath you take, any cake you bake is evaluated from the position of the problem you are to the rest of the household. Sort of the way a mountain creates its own weather, the identified patient creates atmospheric issues of life in a community. It doesn’t really have to do much more than be there, just being present creates turbulence, crowdedness, disquiet.
Consider how the identified patient might feel in that setting. They don’t have to try. They just have to be there and they’re wrong. If they say something, they’re wrong. If they do something, they’re wrong. But they don’t have to do or say anything… we just all know they’re wrong and will only, always, ever be wrong. They’re in the way, roadblocks, hampering movement forward and so the best thing is just to ignore them or get rid of them, if possible.
But then someone comes along who wonders if anyone has ever climbed the mountain… and gives it a shot. It’s treacherous, the air gets thin, sometimes it feels like they’re dying, but then, as they get to the top, suddenly a vista opens up, the world is clear. They can see forever. They’re glad they made the trip.
That’s what happens sometimes when the identified patient is not attended as a “patient” but as part of life, as a person. It’s a hike, no question, and sometimes its more of a climb than a hike. Mountains get driven up by a lot of ancient trauma from below. But when someone takes the time and makes the effort, they can learn the mountain and can reach a spot where they see clearly and they also love the mountain.
There’s a story Jesus tells of the guy who is a problem. Jesus tells those who follow him to go one-on-one to sort out the problem the guy has or is. He goes on, if that doesn’t work then bring another with you and if not then, bring in some authority for help and if not then, get the community to come together to clear things up. If that doesn’t work then “treat them like a tax collector or sinner.” This has been used as a road-map on kicking someone out of the church… but that’s not how Jesus treated tax collectors and sinners. He didn’t kick them out. He chose to get to know them, to climb the mountain.
Just when you figure someone is nothing more than a pain in the butt, so we should just dismiss them… Jesus comes along and says, “Nah, …get your gear! We got a hill to climb!” Who does this guy think he is?