Thursday, August 14, 2014
If churches were hospitals
I have been working in the waiting room of a hospital since March. My job is to greet people, find out what they are there for, get them a wheel chair if needed, and help them sign in, among other things. One critical part of greeting people is finding out what they are there for. If they are experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms, they cannot wait in the waiting room, and I have to call a supervisor or support nurse to get them in right away. And there are other things I have to watch for. But not everyone is helpful. Here are some of the answers I get in reply to "what are you here for", or "why are you here?"
1) To come to the emergency room (duh - that is obvious)
2) My doctor sent me. (Not too helpful either)
3) I'm sick. (I kind of figured that, but still not helpful)
4) I'd rather not say. (usually a woman, again not very helpful)
5) Lots of reasons. (OK, name a few)
6) I don't need any help (followed by the person heading to the KIOSK to register)
Now as long as they aren't having chest pains, stroke symptoms, about to pass out or bleed to death, it isn't extremely important for me to know what they are there for. And if someone doesn't want to say, I'll tell them I have to ask because I have to watch for heart and stroke symptoms, and they will tell me it isn't that. But they eventually have to tell someone. Behind my desk is the Triage #1 room. There is a RN and a CT or CPA (both names for someone who helps the nurses but can't do a couple of things). When the patient enters that room, they have to tell the nurse and CT what is wrong. It is then entered on the screen, and after their vitals are taken and other questions asked, they go back to a room, where again they will have to tell someone what is wrong, this time another nurse, and a doctor.
Most people don't mind telling me what is wrong. And sometimes if it something I wouldn't want to tell if I were in their shoes, but they just blurt it out. One young man wanted to use my phone after he was released, and after knowing what he was there for, I completely sanitized my phone after he walked away. There was no way I wanted to get what he had. One guy said "I'm nuts!" And he was.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could do that at church? Stand up and say "This is my problem or struggle." And some things we can admit to without fear of people getting out the sanitize wipes. But for some of us, it is like some of the patients going into the ER:
I'd rather not say
I have problems
I have said it before, but too many churches have certain things you can talk about, and certain things you can't. You can mention the "nice sins" and "normal struggles". Its OK to talk about pride, anger, bad temper, jealousy, envy, lack of faith, etc. But don't you dare mention pornography, same-sex attraction, lust, marriage problems, and other "not-so-nice-sins" or struggles.
Once in a while at the church I grew up in, someone would want to be anointed for a health issue. They'd go up front, and people would gather around them to pray. The pastor would quote James 5:16: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."(KJV) And then he'd ask if anyone wanted to confess any faults. And then he'd ask for confession. To this day, I am amused when I think of those times. It was always things like "I need more patience" or "I need to be more humble". If someone had dared say "I struggle a lot with lust" or something equally "bad", it might have thrown the whole anointing scene into chaos. You don't talk about bad things in church, just nice ones.
I've been there. For years I had a struggle I couldn't talk about. If I had dared - or would dare - to stand up and say this is me, what I struggle with", there are people who would drag out a large container of sanitizer wipes or Lysol and immediately start disinfecting the area around them just in case it was contagious.
And I am not alone. My church runs around 230-250 most Sundays, and I personally know of a few people dealing with stuff they can't talk about at church.
But here is a good question: if you can't talk about it at church and ask for prayer and help, then what good is the church? What good are the Christians there?
It is a lot like walking into the emergency room at a hospital, and not being able to tell anyone what is wrong with you, because you're afraid the doctors and nurses would run off and leave you to fix yourself. And if hospitals were like churches, that would sadly happen to a lot of people. "Sorry, we don't treat people with THAT disease." "Eww, gross! Get out of here. I don't want what you have!"
It sounds ridiculous to imagine a hospital doing that. If they did, they'd face lawsuits and the state would shut them down faster than you could blink.
And yet it is only temporary. They can help a lot of people, fix many, and in the end we are all going to die anyway, but it is still important to give people the help and healing they need when they come to a hospital for help.
But how much more important are people's souls? How much more important is it that people get spiritual healing and salvation? It is way more important. So why do we make it so difficult for people to get help at church? If churches were hospitals, most of them would have been sued and shut down years ago for not caring for people well enough, for discouraging some in getting true help and healing.
If churches were hospitals, we could all come forward and not generalize, but be specific, and say what we need help with and prayer for. We wouldn't have to hide in silence. When the preacher mentioned THAT, we wouldn't feel our face flush and worry someone might realize we deal with it. We wouldn't care, because the people would be there to help us no matter what our problem was, because that is what they are there for.
And that is what our Christian brothers and sisters should be there for. Church isn't just for going and getting our spiritual buzz or warm fuzzies along with a feel good sermon. It is more than a building where we go to worship and then go back to our lives we live outside of the walls of the church. Church is a community of believers, brothers and sisters. And brothers and sisters are there for you all of the time, not just for a couple of hours on Sunday. They love you no matter what, and help bear your burdens. The family of God.
I am thankful for those who know my deep, dark secret, and don't wear rubber gloves or carry Lysol and sanitize wipes when they are around me, or totally avoid me. But how awesome would it be if years ago I could have asked for prayer in church and named it out. What if I hadn't had to hide it all of these years, but could have been open about my struggles?
It has become more and more obvious to me lately that it is easier to fight some battles and struggles the more open we can be about it. Sin relishes the dark and likes to stay hidden. Bring things to the light, and it is easier to get victory over them. Maybe that is part of the devil's plan. Make church people really judgmental and hateful towards some sins so people in their own midst are afraid to admit to struggling with it, thus making it more difficult to get help and victory.
If all churches were like a good hospital, imagine what would happen to the people who feel they have to hide and never get true help and healing at church. They could boldly come forward and say what they are there for, and not receive judgment, fear, or avoidance, but instead receive love, support, help, prayer, discipleship, and true healing. Its what the church should be all about. Sad that a hospital does for the body what the church doesn't do for the soul.