That said, there can be something reckless & painful about a church hospital sub-culture if we're not careful.
I have some friends in ministry named Carlos & Gina. They're a married couple, and Carlos is a youth minister. When my Mom died, Carlos & Gina went to extraordinary lengths to show love and compassion to myself and my sister. However, while Gina was trying to go the extra mile, my sister began to feel like her feelings were being invaded. I had to go have a conversation with Gina about 6-8 weeks ago about this issue -- to ask her to back off of Katie just a little bit -- and here's how I explained it to her:
You know, it's like if you've got this big wound right up underneath your shirt -- a sensitive area on your body. And, with everyone knowing about this wound, its like everyone you're around wants to pull up your shirt and say, "Well, let me check on this wound today. How're we doing?"
That can feel invasive.
You know, one of the things about hospitals that people really hate are how impersonal they can be. Doctors, nurses, and technicians can come in to treat a wound or to check whatever it is they have to check, but in treating the wound they forget about the person.
Ironically, as it were, Gina lost her mother just a few weeks ago to cancer. I haven't had much of a chance to talk with her, but I'd imagine that she's had a rough go of it. I've talked with her husband Carlos, who was there when I explained to Gina about Katie & about the analogy. I asked him if they understood now, and he said, "Bro... totally."
Carlos went on to tell me how Gina felt like she wanted to sneak into church a little late & duck out before the closing prayer so she wouldn't be overwhelmed. What does that say about church if when we're hurting that is one of the last places we want to be?
We don't all have to try to play doctor with hurting people. That's sort of what Job's friends were trying to do when they explained to him how he just needed to repent. They really had it right when they spent that first week with him in silence. We do well when we just focus on loving on hurting people -- calling them up (if only for a couple minutes to relieve their loneliness), bringing the occasional gift (if only a small token), or whatever we do to love those around us.
A few months ago, I already shared the wisdom of John Mark Hicks with you about "How to Comfort the Suffering." This is sort of an expansion of that last thought where he said "Don't Pry." Sometimes, there's something about constantly bringing up a hurtful issue that folks begin to feel like a project. And nobody wants to be a project.
If hurt people knew they were going to get more hugs & less questions when they came to church, I think they'd be there in a heartbeat. I think that's the kind of people we ought to be.
1 This may be a bad thing to open a blog entry with in case a potential future employer goes hunting around here with the search bar. Nevertheless...