The Power of the Personal

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It matters when we see someone’s face.   
A few years ago, Jonathan Turner, an Israeli physician, conducted a fascinating experiment. 
With their consent, he took photos of 300 men and women who were coming in for CT scans.  He attached the photos to their images that were then submitted to radiologists.  The radiologists – who knew nothing of Turner’s plan – reported that they felt an increased sense of empathy toward these patients, and a desire to be especially meticulous.   
Author Daniel Pink points out that radiologists often sit alone.  Their work of reading X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs is incredibly important.  But it can also feel impersonal. 
Pink writes, “One of the measures of an outstanding radiologist is the ability to discover ‘incidental findings,’ physical concerns…that are incidental to the issue really under consideration.”
The radiologists who examined the images of Turner’s 300 selected patients – the ones whose pictures accompanied their scans – reported a remarkable number of incidental findings.
Three months later Turner selected 81 of the scans in which an incidental health issue had been reported.  He resubmitted them to the same group of radiologists – who didn’t know they were repeats – but this time without the pictures.
The outcome was startling.  The second time, 80% of the incidental findings went unreported. 
Turner was quick to point out that nothing is going to replace sound scientific and technological processes.  But “the power of the personal” cannot be ignored.  His patients are human beings, not just physiological case studies.
It matters when we see someone’s face
In Old Testament times, what did it mean to receive God’s blessing?  Aaron the high priest extended his hands over the people of Israel and said, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). 
The ultimate privilege of being one of God’s people was knowing that God was turning his face in my direction – that the king of the cosmos would want to know me personally, and consequently let me know something of him.   
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul provides a foretaste of life in the next world.  “For now [in this present life] we see in a mirror dimly,” he writes in I Corinthians 13:12.  Glass mirrors had not yet been invented.  The only way to catch a blurry glimpse of one’s own reflection was to gaze into still water or onto a highly polished metallic surface.  “But then [that is, in the next world] face to face.”  On the other side of death, in other words, we shall at last see and be seen as we really are – and that will somehow include the face of God.  
Paul concludes, “Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  Questions will be answered.  Secrets will be laid bare.  We will know and be known as never before.
But what about today?  What can we do right now to experience more of “the power of the personal”?
The next time you’re in a crowd or in traffic or sitting in a crowded arena, remember that you are surrounded by real persons – individuals who have friends, families, fears, joys, and concerns.
Consider pausing and offering a prayer for the people behind those faces that you see for just a moment.
Such prayer doesn’t have to be profound or original.  Just sincere. 
And there’s something we can always pray for someone, even if we know next to nothing about what they are facing today:  Lord, bless this person with your peace.
The Holy Spirit will fill in the rest.