I spent a few days in the hospital recently.
I’ve been on a medical mystery tour, so to speak. I have as many questions as answers regarding the removal of a tumor from my ankle back in May. Verdict is still out, but the good news is that it doesn’t appear that the tumor was malignant.
But enough of that.
I want to share a little of what I observed as a patient and how this interfaces with our life in God’s kingdom.
I was admitted because of an infection following a open biopsy on my lymph nodes. I had a high fever, swelling and inflamed tissues around the incision. It was not a good place to be. I knew that infections can become systemic and careen out of control with fatal results. The hospital staff tended to me with an urgency that signaled that this was not something to take lightly.
As they wheeled me to the room, I was greeted by the nurse in charge of the night shift. She asked me my name to see if it verified what was on my wrist band. Satisfied that she had the right patient corresponding to the treatment plan, she asked about pain level and if there was anything she could do to make me more comfortable.
She treated me as a person with an illness needing care. I’ve never liked being a “sickie” so I found myself having to fight my tendency to answer all her questions with an, “I’m just fine”, response. I don’t like to admit being sick, ill or weak. It’s a thorn in my flesh….wait a minute….let’s make that… IT IS MY FLESH. It’s that part of me that resists God’s work and in that moment was resisting a finely trained, passionate health care professional in doing the job they have been trained to do.
At a certain point, it occurred to me that I needed to do some soul-searching and quit avoiding honest and open responses to questions about my comfort level. They had objective readings of my elevated temperature, my blood pressure and heart beat. If I dance around their questions, I’m just frustrating to their efforts to give care to a person who is ill.
In all this, the nurse and her staff are treating me as a person who is ill and in need of treatment. They are cordial, they are cheerful, but it’s not much of a party atmosphere. They speak to me in soft tones, in short, I am treated with empathy and great sensitivity. I am sick. They know it and I have begun to catch on to the idea that I need to resist my state of denial and embrace the fact that I need help.
They are trained, ready and equipped and will likely administer the good medicine whether I admit to my need or not. If I resist them or ignore precautions I will either delay or negate altogether the attempts made to bring me back to health.
As my vitals began to get stronger and the attending physician prepared me for discharge home, the nursing staff got me on my feet and began treating me, not so much as an ill person, but a well person. I won’t say that my hospital room became a party atmosphere, but the staff greeted me, not in muffled tones, but brighter, cheerier, exuberant expressions. They were joyous on the news of my “release”.
For those of us who are part of churches…..highly organized to house church models…..what can we learn from this cross-disciplinary study? (There’s an unintended pun there….which I’ll let you run with if you like)
But I ask us to consider how we greet those who have fallen ill to the grip of fevered, infectious sin?
- Do we too easily give up on them because they deny they are sick? Do we too easily dismiss the patient, who is too proud to admit they need help?
- What can we do as Christians to be more….Hospitable? (This time the pun is intended….please run with it till your legs are tired)
- How can our hearts be transformed to better meet the needs of people who need healing but make it hard on the caregivers?
How can our Kingdom efforts (churches, Bible study groups, care groups etc.) become more like “walk-in clinics” prepared to administer care?
I fear that too many of our efforts today focus on the greeter stations and coffee bars than our ER’s.
As one who has recently been given care, given solid health building information and equipped to do some personal health maintenance, I think I am hearing God’s call as a spiritual care giver with more clarity, volume and urgency.
As one coming back to health, I turn my attention to sharing what I have learned and focus on seeking others who need the care of the Great Physician.
To our Good Health!