The summer between my 6th and 7th grade years was not good. My brother and I had gotten a set of weights for Christmas and instead of developing muscles, I developed a rather significant hernia. My parents scheduled surgery for early in the summer and the date would give me a couple of months to recuperate before starting football in the fall. As the time got closer for my surgery, I got very excited. For some reason, I had this glamorized picture of a hospital room. In a hospital room, I would be able to sleep in a bed that could go up and down. I would have my own television with my own remote control; and best of all, the nurses would serve me meals in bed. You would think I was going to a spa.
As the day got closer, one of the items that I thought I especially needed for my hospital experience was a new pair of bed room shoes. There was this department store in Vidalia named Max Smith's. They had a going-out-of-business sale that seemed to last for years. One day when I went in there with my momma, I noticed a pair of brown corduroy bedroom shoes. They were marked at $5, so I bought them. I was accessorizing myself for the hospital staff. I had no idea what was in front of me.
The day prior to my surgery my parents checked into the hospital for prep work. Sure enough, I got my own bed and tv with a remote control. So far so good. When I awoke the next morning, they came to get me for surgery. I should have known that it was going to be a disastrous day when the nurse looked at me and said, "My what a pretty little girl." Sure, it was the late seventies and I had long hair, and obviously I looked like a little girl, but she should have read the chart.
I don't remember anything after that point. My first recollection of consciousness was waking up with nausea and intense pain. Remember, this was the late seventies. They didn't do laparoscopic surgery in Vidalia back then. They did the old-fashioned cut and stitch, so I had this big long cut in my gut. It felt like they had sawn me in half and given me a stomach virus to top it off. I don't know if I could have felt any worse.
Without a doubt, I had a very inaccurate view of the mission of the hospital. A hospital is not a place to relax. It definitely is not a spa. However, it is a place to get better, and sometimes getting better involves pain. In relating this experience to the church, I think a lot of people are confused about its mission. Like a hospital, the church is a place that helps you get better, and sometimes pain is a part of that process. Lets face it, sometimes spiritual growth hurts. We can't always see what is on the inside of us that needs fixing. God sees it, and He uses His Word empowered by His Spirit to bring change into our lives. This change is known as sanctification. It is the process of becoming more like Jesus while we are alive here on Earth. Sanctification is not always glamorous. It is often brought about through painful experiences.
So, the next time you think that becoming like Jesus is like going to a spa and having all the amenities, you need to think again. Because the spa may actually be a hospital and instead of a massage you may be having surgery. But, the surgery will benefit you in the long run. Your life will bear fruit for God's Kingdom and you will have a better grasp of what life is really all about!