Jesus in the Hospital

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The thing is that even the most perfect looking, smartest acting, kindest-hearted person has weaknesses. Imperfections. Insecurities. Despite how camouflaged they may appear. Depending on the environment they are in, they exist. Hidden perhaps. Buried maybe. Tucked away in a cabinet or in the closet. On the surface even. You absolutely cannot be walking around this world perfect. So, why do we try so hard to look like we’ve got our acts together? Countless reasons.

I used to carry a sense of shame with having these most awful, disgusting things happen with my body. I was afraid to talk about them. Like I had any control over their path of destruction. You know if diseases were ranked upon their social accepted-ness, I’m quite certain that irritable bowel diseases would not be on the swimsuit cover of “Diseases Illustrated.” Seriously. Let’s just list some of the things I have experienced which in no way compare with what other IBDers are dealing with, specifically kids with Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. See what your natural reaction is to some of these: bloody, foul smelling diarrhea. Extra holes connecting one part of your body to a part that it shouldn’t. Think of your sewer pipe connecting to the water line of your shower.  Going on inside your body. Your small intestine coming out of your body. A daily reminder that your body will not ever be like most everyone else. Wounds opening up so wide that you need a vacuum to suck your skin back together. For weeks and weeks. Not eating for weeks. Tubes in your nose. Tubes in your abdomen, vagina, and butt. Completely raw broken down skin that hurts so badly you can’t leave your house. Not that you even wanted to. Just wanted the choice. Then there’s the worrying about going to some awesome new place because you don’t know if or where the bathroom will be.

I could go on and on. I don’t like to. I don’t think I need to. Though I don’t want anybody’s pity. Pity parties are so lame and never have quite the turn-out you expected. I don’t wan’t to be treated differently. Unless by differently you mean more encouragement, more understanding, more tolerance, more willingness to learn. I want to walk in confidence and know that I am loved for who I am. Not what I have. Not what I look like. Not even for what I have endured.

I was 18. And scared. And so close to dying. But my damn pride and stubborn immature self wouldn’t let the surgeons do what they needed to do to save my life. I had no quality of life. I was wasting away, bleeding so much that I needed transfusions. I  had not eaten in over a month. But, I was damn sure that I didn’t want to get an ostomy bag. People wanted to help. I didn’t want to listen. They couldn’t possibly know. “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with a bag because you don’t know. You don’t have one.” That’s how I felt about every person that came into my hospital room with their pitch as to why I should get my entire colon removed.

Until one day. In walks a guy I babysat for. I loved him. He was hilarious and he was a real live person sitting across from me, telling me that he had an ostomy bag. He got sick when he was 18. He went to college, got married, and had these four amazing girls. And all of the sudden, I felt this enormous sense of relief. He knew what I was going through. He knew what I could do. Hell yeah, I could still play college basketball. He played college intramural football. And his nickname was “Bags.” Take that.

That’s what I love so much about Jesus. He came because we needed him. Desperately. A real live person. We are so hurt, broken, imperfect, dying. If we admit it. We are all missing pieces. And he came in the most radical way, as if to say, “I’m coming to the people who recognize they need me. The weak ones.” All of us. If you’ve got your shit so together, if you’re playing the role of ever strong, über dependent, got this life figured out, you don’t need Jesus. You don’t need grace. Or healing. Or forgiveness. Or love that is so powerful it comes to your hospital room when you’re mad at the world. It walks in and says, “hey. I’m like you. I get it. This world can really suck, but we can make it better. We can change it.” One hospital room at a time.

A little hope goes a long way. It’s easier to see Jesus in the hospital and to need him. But the thing is, I need him just as much at home. My pride just sneaks in again. And I think I got this. By myself. All alone. Hold up, pride. Sit down.

It takes a village. But not a village of people with their arms crossed, bitchy faces and pursed lips. Thinking they don’t need anyone. Especially not someone like you helping them, guiding them, showing them love. I want to go to the village of open arms and smiles and tears. We laugh together. We cry together. We live life together. Not hidden. Open. Exposed. But it’s kind of scary. And you have to be that really hard word to say, “vul-nur-uh-bul.” Why does it have to be such a hard word to say and an even harder thing to be? Vulnerable. Vulnerable. It doesn’t get easier if you say it or spell it a lot of times. However, it does get easier, kind of like apologizing, if it becomes a practice. A habit. If I could only be vulnerable as often as I bite my nails.

Actually, that might be going overboard.

The thing I’ve learned is that people have opened up and shared really hard, painful stuff with me. And I feel honored and inspired and more connected. Like we’re all experiencing some of the same things.  Like we are much more alike than we are different. It’s like our batteries are charged by each other. Like God created us for each other, to need each other. Help each other. Work our hardest to understand each other. And try our hardest, despite our selfish tendencies, to show love to one another.

I see Jesus people all the time. They don’t even know they’re doing these miracles. Tiny, dignity restoring, life-giving miracles. Miracles that connect us. Miracles that help us know of this insanely powerful love. A love so strong that it barges through the darkness and let’s light seep in. It’s here. I see it all the time. When I’m watching others help strangers with a love so passionate. You can feel it in your bones. And I see it the most when I’m down in the dumps. Feeling needy. Dependent. Not myself.

But slowly, the love pulls me out. Picks me up. And gives me a good nudge. The kind that makes me want to do more. Hope more. Feel more. And care for others more. I would like to think that we all carry this secret power. We just tap into at different moments in our lives. Sometimes intermittently.

This is why I get excited for Christmas. For the lights. Everywhere. Because of the enormous amount of love and sacrifice and forgiveness and grace that the humble babe born in a stable represents. He lives on in each of us. Here. Now. Really. If you start looking, you’ll soon notice there are Jesus people everywhere. In the places you would least expect them to be. Doing these beautiful powerful acts that have the abilty to change the world.

Christmas can be a time of hope, exhaustion, sadness, joy, and a sleigh packed full of many other emotions. It’s celebrated one day a year but the people that are the lights that represent Christmas continue to shine all year long.

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