Checking in to the Hospital

In the past two months I have visited two beloved family members in two separate hospitals, one admitted for a serious and severe infection and the other for a heart procedure. There are many things that strike you about hospitals: the rooms never vary and are never particularly “cozy”, they are not actually restful because of the constant stream of nurses coming to take your vital signs, and they place the patient at the mercy of any visitor who wants to come in and stay as long as he or she pleases.

Its along the lines of that last one that I especially noticed, though not for the first time, the utter indignity of the patient’s experience. In both cases, with visitors standing around, nurses asked about urine samples and referenced other such private matters. As if its not bad enough already to be lying vulnerably in a “gown” that is anything other than what the name suggests!

But here is the final thing I observed in both situations: neither one of these patients acted embarrassed, irritated or even resentful of their situation. In fact, both gave the genuine impression that they were delighted to see us (I brought Ellie and Chad to both), happy to have us there and in no great hurry to be relieved of our seeing eyes and hearing ears to all that was going on.

In some ways the answer is obvious. These indignities, much like that of childbirth where I suddenly had a whole audience of medical personnel where nobody ever should be, just don’t matter a whole lot in the context of why the patient is there. They are all pretty insignificant in comparison to the consequences of not being in the hospital for a threatening infection or heart failure. In both of the above cases, their health was being restored and that was worth far more than any uncomfortable exposure in the process.

I’ve always known and delighted in the fact that Jesus did not come for the healthy but for the sick. Who doesn’t love that, really? But I rarely genuinely think myself that sick. Sure, I’ve got a little head cold, but it will pass. Yeah, my knee aches every now and then but thats just part of the deal. Mostly, I see myself as the visitor in the room, healthy, fully clothed and in no real need of a doctor. And this is how I know that I just don’t really get the Gospel at all.

I am the sick, every day, with a fatal infection and a heart that is sucking out my energy and threatening to end me. I just don’t see it. And as I long as I can’t see it, I don’t see any reason to be stripped down in front of others having my urine discussed publicly. And as long as I think whatever ails me can be lived with, ignored or totally explained away, I will not be desperate to be checked into the hospital and see my Doctor immediately. And by the way, I am not speaking of a salvation moment but of my ongoing need to be restored to His perfect image.

So here is a good diagnostic test. This set of questions is just a start, maybe barely scratching the surface. The answers aren’t intended to give me a new to-do list of things that need self-perfecting. The answers have a far more powerful and beautiful aim: heart surgery that I cannot perform on myself and can only be trusted to the One who is greater than our hearts. I can’t answer the questions myself because I just can’t see my need for a Redeemer the way those who live with me can. So, these must be asked of close friends and family who love me enough to help me see how I can experience more of the person and work of Jesus in my life. The goal is NOT condemnation and the making of personal improvement goals. The goal is to see how current my need for a Redeemer is and that I have One!

1. How do you usually feel after spending time with me? 2. What can you see that I value most (and am finding my life’s value in most) by the way I spend my time/money? or What rises to a level of importance for me that has a negative impact on others? 3. When things are out of whack, how do I usually respond? What seems to be the theme of my anger? 4. How do I determine success? 5. Where do you see that I am trusting myself for my well being more than trusting my Father? 6. How do you see me trying to redeem myself?

Here is what Paul Miller wrote:

Less mature Christians have little need to pray. When they look at their hearts (which they rarely do,) they seldom see jealousy. They are barely aware of impatience. Instead, they are frustrated by all the slow people they keep running into. Less mature Christians are quick to give advice. There is no complexity to their worlds because the answers are simple – “just do what I say, and your life will be easier.” I know all this because the “they” I’ve been talking about is actually me.

As we mature as Christians, we see more and more of our sinful natures, but at the same time we see more and more of Jesus. As we see our weaknesses more clearly, we begin to grasp our need for more grace.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 1 Thess. 5:23-24

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