The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.
In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.
-1 Corinthians 12:12, 22-25
My wife had to get some routine blood work done last week. Every time she’s ever had to do this, I’m always eager to hear the story when she gets home. There’s always a story.
You see, when it comes to needles, Bethany is what’s known as “a fainter."
Each time a needle is in play, the blood already starts draining out of her, even before she’s been touched. I think she’s gotten better though the years, but every time is most definitely still an adventure. (I'm allowed to share this!)
Apparently there's a whole group of people who identity with this reality. So many, in fact, that the medical office has spent considerable time and energy to help out all the fainters who walk among us.
When Bethany mentioned to her nurse that she was a fainter, the nurse knew exactly what to do. She ushered her down the hallway to a special designated area, with a sign on the door calling it the “Comfort Room.” As a non-fainter, I had no idea this room existed.
According to her, this place is pretty special. She walked into a peaceful atmosphere, with a comfortable and welcoming massage chair in the center. It was surrounded by other chairs, possibly for the dozens of friends and family members the fainter needs for moral support. The nurse made sure that she had all that she needed, because she was especially vulnerable. Therefore, she had to be treated with special care.
You might be a bit more vulnerable than others? Come to the front of the line. We've got the best place to take care of you.
Let’s compare that to a different experience I had with comfort in January. I was traveling back from a trip to India, and one of my travel partners was a frequent flyer and businessmen. This gave us special access to one of those airline lounges. We had hours to wait before our flight home from Delhi, which we were able to do in a deluxe lounge with couches, soft music, endless complimentary food and drinks, and televisions showing every cricket match you could imagine.
Every one of our needs was attended to beautifully— because we had paid up. Comfort Room to the extreme! Unfortunately, I saw no sign of the most exhausted and vulnerable travelers in that lounge.
Which of these looks more like the way of our world? Which of these looks more like the kingdom of God that Jesus taught about, where the poor and downcast are the guests of honor?
Bethany’s experience in a Comfort Room is a reminder to me of the upside down beauty of God’s kingdom, where those who feel weakest and vulnerable are the ones given special care, honor, and compassion. Most often, the places of comfort in our world are given to the wealthy, the powerful, and the skilled. The ones struggling the most among us are ignored, mocked, or even judged for that very struggle.
Father Gregory Boyle has spent his life creating micro-business opportunities for former gang members in California, many of whom have also been incarcerated. He has lived his life among people who have been surrounded by violence, substance abuse, and relational brokenness. He once wrote that Christians need to seek a compassion "that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry, rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” As disciples of Jesus, we do not criticize those carrying burdens. We comfort them. We create places for rest and care. We see them as the honored ones.
Let us continue to learn the truth of this subversive kingdom, where we seek to honor and learn from the poor and the poor in spirit, rather than overlooking them. Let us continue to give voice to the ones drowned out, and be lavish in our inclusion and care.
I cannot recall a time in my life where I was so aware of so many people experiencing pain, need, and weakness. And I cannot recall a time where I was aware of so many people adding to the pain by words of anger and judgment toward those who are vulnerable. What might Jesus be inviting you to do to create spaces of comfort for those at risk of fainting right now? How can you give special honor and rest to the ones who feel weak? We all have a role to play.
By the way, Bethany didn’t faint this time around. I think the Comfort Room did its job.
Jesus, help me be a person of grace and mercy today, creating spaces for those around me to experience your love, value, and comfort.