Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
During the holidays we often remember those that we love who are no longer with us, and this year I lost one of the most important mentors in my life, Dr. Glen Brindley. He taught me about Ophthalmology. He taught me about our Lord. He modeled for me how a man of God should live and behave in his home and work. As I was reading in Isaiah today I came across the verse above and it brought to my mind so many things about my mentor. Dr. Brindley’s mind was stayed on the Lord and that flowed into everything that he did. It even flowed into his way of speaking and because of that, I have a few of his phrases that I’d like to share.
During our bible study on marriage with the Brindleys, my wife and I were able to learn from the hard-won wisdom the Brindleys had gathered over their long marriage. After a long day at work or a rough day in the operating room I admit that I am often guilty of carrying that stress home and letting it affect how I treat my family. Instead of coming home with joy to see my children and wife, I come home tired, slightly grumpy, and not ready to show the love of Christ to those that I love most in this world. The Brindleys called this spilling over.
Our cups can often become filled by the everyday trials of life, both ordinary and extraordinary, and instead of placing those burdens at the feet of our Savior we carry them all with us until we are so full with them that all we can do is spill over, and that often happens in our homes. It’s such a simple phrase, but just knowing the reality of this has allowed my wife and I to realize when it is happening and tell each other honey, I’m sorry, I’m spilling over. It allows us to understand each other better and to try and be better partners in life by carrying one another’s burdens as well. And when we have a disagreement and are discussing some point of contention between us the Brindleys taught us that we should imagine, as Dr. Brindley said that he did, that our spouse has a note on their forehead saying “I am not the enemy.” Even in struggles and hard times, the Lord has given us to each other to cherish and this little trick is a good way to remind us of that.
“Remember in the darkness what you learned in the light.” He would often remind us that in the good times in our lives we need to take extra care not to become complacent in our relationship with God. Because when the darkness of life creeps in and begins to crowd around us, we will need to remember what we learned in the good times. If we live our life to reflect our savior, Jesus Christ, then when tribulations come we can more easily remember how good our God is. I think of Psalms 88 when I think of this phrase. The psalmist is overwhelmed with troubles and drawing near to death but from the beginning he says “Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.?” Although this is a sorrowful psalm, and the author appears to be in deep darkness and God seems silent and far away, he continues to cry out to the Lord. Perhaps the psalmist remembers a truth that was also a common saying of Dr. Brindley: “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” And in the darkness, the psalmist remembered. His mind was stayed on the Lord.
One short phrase of Dr. Brindley’s has stuck with me more than any other. He would often remind me that “it’s hard down here.” This may seem like a strange phrase for me to remember so dearly, but he always followed it with something else. “It’s hard down here, but God is good.” “It’s hard down here, but we serve a risen savior.” It was such a simple reminder that our struggles and tribulations in this world are real and heavy, but we can place that burden on our Lord. Dr. Brindley lived his life this way. As surgeons, sometimes those heavy burdens can be that of difficult or complicated surgeries, and the fact that sometimes you try to help people and end up failing to do so or even causing harm. Sometimes endophthalmitis results from an uncomplicated trabeculectomy, and people don’t recover. As most glaucoma specialists are, Dr. Brindley was no stranger to difficult procedures with complicated postoperative courses. When a friend asked him about how he dealt with this he said that he always did everything he could for a patient, that he trusted the Lord to guide him, and that “some people would be better if they never met [him].” I very much doubt that last part, but I think his sentiment was that if we do our work in such a way that we are pursuing excellence and serving our patients’ best interests then there is some comfort even when we fail. And because “it’s hard down here” and we live in a fallen world, those situations will come. But God is still good, all the time.
Anyone who trained under Dr. Brindley knew that when you were in the OR with him, you were going to get “pimp” questioned. For those outside of the medical training world, “pimp questioning” is the time honored tradition of asking a series of progressively more difficult questions to a physician-in-training until they can no longer answer. But Dr. Brindley was different. He questioned not just about Ophthalmology, but probably even more about life. Sometimes I hear in my mind Dr. Brindley saying “what have you done to show your bride you love her lately?” or “What is the Lord teaching you right now?” His mind was truly stayed on our Lord and he wanted to make sure that those under him were keeping their priorities in order as well. When I recall him asking me those things it reminds me to keep my mind set on things above, just as Dr. Brindley did. The bible teaches us that “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” We should all strive to strengthen one another?s faith in this way, just like Dr. Brindley was constantly doing.
I’ll be forever grateful for what Dr. Brindley taught me, and I give all the thanks and praise for his well-lived life to our Savior whom he followed. The Lord God was and is his everlasting rock and I pray that at the end of my life someone feels the same about me as I do about Dr. Brindley.