I don't often blatantly discuss religion on this blog (that's what my other one is for), but I also don't hide that side of me. My faith in Christ guides just about everything I do, including my work as a vet, and that will come out from time to time. So I received this email from Rachel:
I am so glad to have come across your 7/24/11 post called 'God and Veterinary medicine'. I have a pressing question which I know only God knows the answer to, but I wanted to open it to you for honest insight...
My name is Rachel and I'm a pre-veterinary student at the moment, after having graduated with an unrelated bachelor's degree a few years ago. I don't know how to put my passion for helping animals into words that don't sound cliche. I want to help and heal them to my highest ability, which is why I changed my course and returned to school in pursuit of a career as a veterinarian. At the time when I made this decision, there were many signs that this is the way, and many wondered why I hadn't chosen this path in the first place. Simply put, I'm crazy about God's animals, and to see them ailing brings me to my knees.
I have always believed in God, but only a few weeks ago I fully accepted Christ into my life and my relationship with Him is growing everyday. Before, I admit to being guilty of putting animals above humans - honestly, I was people-fearing, even loathing. After reading the Bible, I realize that as a follower of Christ, I cannot live or think that way - we must love one another as Christ does. I heard a sermon not too long ago that said once you accept God into your life, He does with your life as He pleases, and He will take/make you far from who you think you are, and you certainly may not like it at first.
Thinking of this brings me anxiety, panic, and confusion, because not long after, a thought came to my mind (from me or God, I do not know) that I should be a human doctor, and specialize in oncology to be exact. I don't know if this was God talking to me, or me messing with mind trying to stir up anxiety again (not uncommon). I feel that everything that has happened for me in the past two years - volunteering, participating in veterinary mission trips abroad, meeting wonderful contacts in the field, finding inspiration in the veterinarians I have followed - all of these things I feel were/are blessings from God. They all came to me at the right place and time; coincidence is impossible. I enjoy and am fulfilled when I help people day to day, but animals have been in my heart, as are many other God-given passions and talents, since my beginning.
Perhaps it is God trying to tell me that I need to balance myself out and dedicate more time to helping people in need? This I can believe. I have merely just begun my walk with God and I am just starting to learn more about Him. Of course I want to always say 'Yes' to God! He knows what is best for us. I can only hope it was a silly 'what-if' thought that came to mind. Now I can't help but worry as I continue my studies that I am displeasing God, and being selfish for pursuing what I love. I have prayed about this, but nothing is yet clear to me.
I am coming to you because I trust your honest insight, and I am sure you understand more about God's character than I do right now. What are your thoughts?
First I want to say that I'm not an expert on God, just a devoted layperson who makes mistakes and still sins. I'm no better than anybody else, so take any of my advice with a grain (or three) of salt. And I can't say that I understand more about God....I'm still trying to figure a lot of it out myself!
God is not the author of confusion. That's the domain of Satan. But we as fallible, sinful humans can mess with our own minds without the Devil's help. I've certainly had plenty of doubts and confusion of my own and have doubted what God wants for me, yet I don't think Satan is behind all of that. We have our own free wills, and that includes the freedom to doubt. But if you're moving in a direction that God wants, Satan can certainly intervene and muddy the waters.
I agree that too many people put animals over humans. Humans have a special place in God's creation, and though animals are special they are not on the same level as people. I do believe that animals have emotions and can show love and devotion, but that alone doesn't place them above or even equal to humans. In Genesis God gives Adam (and therefore all his descendants) authority over animals. But that doesn't mean that we can do whatever we want to them with impunity. God still wants us to take care of His creation. Animals are there for us to be able to use, but also for us to act as caretakers. That is a big responsibility and ties directly to those of us in the veterinary profession. But no matter how much I love animals, I firmly believe that any human has more value to God than any animal. As a follower of Christ, I need to mirror that attitude.
Rachel, I can't tell you what God wants from you, even if I knew you. I would first recommend finding a local pastor, priest, or other spiritual leader that you respect and with whom you feel comfortable. Talk to them and ask them to pray for you. Also spend daily time with God, praying and above all listening. I think that too much prayer time is spent with us talking while God wants his turn to speak to us. Be quiet and focus on His will and His presence. Read the Bible daily and get to know His character. You'll find great wisdom in His words that will help you understand what He wants from you.
Think about where your true passions and interests lie. When I think about human medicine I get a bit weirded out. I find things related to humans rather disgusting and could never imagine myself being part of that, even though I deal with the same things on animals. I also don't feel a burning desire to help people in this way. God has never given me a heart or passion to be involved with human medicine. That's not me being selfish, that's just how I've always been. God creates each of us with innate talents and interests, even before we turn to Him. He creates us to do certain things, even if we may not realize it at the time.
He did the same thing with you, Rachel. If you feel strongly drawn to human medicine and oncology, start to look into that. Perhaps volunteer at a hospital where you can work with cancer patients. If you feel your heart crying out to these people and wanting to be around them, then consider switching your path. But if you feel uncomfortable and nervous in this situation, it may not be right for you. If you go into human oncology you can still help animals by giving to charitable organizations and volunteering at shelters or as a foster parent. If you pursue veterinary medicine but still feel that God wants you involved with human cancer patients you can do something similar, volunteering at a hospital or with hospice, or giving to cancer research foundations. It is possible to have a passion for one thing but still help out in another area.
Both veterinary and human medical schools will stress and tax you in ways you can't imagine. Both are worthwhile pursuits, but you should be sure of which one you want to pursue before starting. Spend more time with God, listen to Him, and find a local pastor to help you. I hope that some of my words may also help, and I will pray for you.