I have often heard that a church should look more like a hospital, and that’s the out-of-left-field thought I had at a most unusual moment. It popped into my mind when a nurse inserted the IV needle into my wrist.
I was in the hospital for surgery on my, ahem, pre-menopausal lady parts. (Everything is fine. I am recovered. I am at peace.) But moments before the IV was inserted, I was not at peace. I was in panic.
I had a full-on meltdown that would rival a three-year-old’s flopped-down fit in a Target aisle. Forty-nine-year-old me. In a hospital gown. With my long-suffering husband whispering gentle reassurance to me. Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t the procedure, biopsies, or anesthesia that sent me into a tailspin.
I was terrified of the needle. (Turns out, there’s a name for this very real fear: trypanophobia.)
Then something happened. The nurse — her name was Teresa — looked me in the eyes and said simply and calmly, “Have faith.”
Her words weren’t delivered in a way that would make you feel like you’d been preached at, or scolded, or that your fears were being marginalized. It was reassurance that was paradoxically gentle and firm. I knew in that moment that faith was possible.
I breathed deeply, and it became clear to me that the hospital was doing for me what the big-c Church is called to do for all people: to be like Jesus — the same Jesus, who, like Teresa, reminded His followers to have faith.
That day, I saw Jesus in the hospital from the moment I stepped inside.
I saw Jesus in the man who held the elevator open.
I saw Jesus in the receptionist who showed me to my room and asked about our holiday plans.
I saw Jesus in the patience of my husband, who held my trembling hand.
I saw Jesus in the nurse who pressed a lavender essential-oil patch onto my gown to calm me.
I saw Jesus in the anesthesiologist who explained how things would go in the operating room.
And, of course, I saw Jesus in Teresa.
All of this happened beneath a wooden cross nailed to the wall in front of me. Yes, a cross in a hospital. Perhaps you’re aware that the church played a major role in developing what we know today as the hospital. The same is true of the specific hospital where I was cared for, Avera, founded by orders of religious women. There is much to be said of the rich faith traditions undergirding our modern hospital system. It makes sense, given that the early church championed care of the sick.
And, of course, healing was a tenet of Christ’s ministry on earth. He was not only a spiritual healer but a physical one too. Like me, a woman who had been experiencing her own lady-part problems went in search of healing. She knew that if she could simply touch His cloak, she would be healed.
Jesus turned to her with words of compassion. “Take heart, daughter. Your faith has healed you” (Matthew 9:21-22).
As I think about the year ahead, the kind of Church I need — the kind of Church I want to be — is the kind where I am reminded that Jesus holds my suffering in nail-scarred hands.
I want to see Jesus in the rooms of 2022, and I want to be Jesus in the room. I want to bring whatever I can to a hurting world — whether that’s through the opening of a door, asking a kind question, offering a bit of lavender or a hand to hold. I want to bring my presence to those who are hurting.
Candidly, I also need the Church in this way. I too am sometimes saddled with pain and panic. I want to be able to show up in the new year as I am – broken, hurting, panicked, anxious – and find safe places to share my wounds without having them maligned or minimized. I need kind Teresas nearby to gently remind me to “have faith,” who will stay close even when I’m a bawling mess.
And may it all play out under the cross.
Yes, I need a church that’s like a hospital. It’s said that the word hospital originates from the Latin word hospes, meaning guest or stranger. It’s the same root for the word hospitality. The word patient comes from patior, which means to suffer. That means that, by definition, a hospital is a kind place where guests who are suffering can show up and be cared for.
May the Church — and all of us in it — become more and more a place like that.
Dear Lord, I pray for the woman who suffers today. I pray for the woman whose pain has been maligned, misunderstood, or minimized. May You give her safe passage toward people who believe her and guide her in faith. May You give her the courage to reach out and touch Your garment. And Father, we also pray for the Church in 2022. May it be a place that’s more like a hospital, where suffering guests can show up and be cared for. In Jesus’ healing name, Amen.Leave a Comment