Everybody wants to feel like they are missed from the group when hospitalized or stuck at home fighting a prolonged illness. And yet the clergy and laity don’t seem to visit folks, or check on them like they used to. I’m just as guilty as the next person in this area. But this type of ministration will become more important with each passing year as baby boomers find themselves spending more time in hospitals. The healthcare industry is preparing for the additional load. Churches would be wise to prepare for this vital ministry, as well. Besides, the baby boomer generation is not the type to quietly enter old age. They will expect attention from their church community. I see a clash of priorities ahead between boomers and the busy church.
We are busy people. How do we squeeze hospital visits into frantic schedules? Adding to the problem is our natural tendency to avoid hospitals. Hospitals make us uneasy. They are where we go when something has gone wrong with our bodies. They are filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells; and not all of them pleasant. Perhaps they conjure up uncomfortable childhood memories of visits to the emergency room or going to see a dying relative. I have visited a few folks in the hospital and they all had the same desire—they wanted to go home or get back to work as soon as possible.
These feelings are understandable, but somewhat unfortunate. Why? Because, even though hospitals are sterile institutions of science, they are ultimately houses of healing. Except for the acute onset of illness or injury, most healing arts are a slow process. Lab tests and other diagnostics take time. It is also a time for the patient to begin to heal by slowing down. Time moves at a different pace for patients in hospitals than for the “healthy” outside. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a stay in the hospital is like a vacation, but it is an opportunity to evaluate our lives and commune with God on a different level. I think in the hospital we need God more. We become very aware of our mortality.
So the next time a friend or family member is in the hospital, go and sit with them for a while. Listen and pray with them. If you find yourself in the hospital, don’t be afraid of the slow inward journey where you may meet God in a new way. You will find healing for your soul and, perhaps, a new orientation when you get out of the house of healing.