Church is often compared to a hospital and I’ve recently been pondering the implications of that metaphor. The hospital is where things get real. It’s where we come face to face with our mortality and the sheer value of life. It’s also the great equalizer. After delivering my kids via c-section, my nurse asked me if I’d passed gas yet. What?! I snickered when I thought, Even Beyonce gets this question after having babies. Wealth and fame don’t actually alter our human state. In the hospital, we all need help, we all have vulnerabilities, and we all need grace to maintain our dignity.

So what does an open-backed hospital gown have to do with church? Well, sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes we feel exposed and sometimes we see more of another person than we planned to. This comparison alone makes most of us want to run, but I promise you, it’s not literal, and this is where the healing happens.

Church is where we show up week after week, whether it’s been a good week or a bad one. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t taught how to interact with people outside idyllic circumstances and when people don’t know how to respond, they instinctively move AWAY. Most of us can’t bear the thought of that happening, so we put our Happy Sabbath Faces on. It’s not so different from a patient who’s asked to rate their pain on a scale of one to ten and say a three when it’s really a five.

If church is going to be a hospital where people can bring their pain and recover from the thrashings life dishes out, we’re going to have to get a lot more skilled at interacting with hurting people. Have you noticed that in a medical emergency, the people with knowledge and skills rush in to help while those of us who would likely make things worse, keep our distance? But what if church were full of first responders?

We move away from people out of fear and we fear what we don’t understand, so my prayer is for strength to follow Proverbs 4:7, Though it cost all you have, get understanding. I want to move TOWARD hurting people.