Christians are impossible. Have you noticed? They’re needy, demanding, insecure, oblivious, judgmental, hypocritical, weird and generally exhausting.

And that’s just me.

But seriously, there was a time in my (more)self-righteous youth when I wondered what was wrong with people who went to church. Why were they like that? So uncool? So difficult to be around? I much preferred non-Christians. And then, somehow—and I can’t remember exactly how this came to pass—I realized that it’s not that Christians are a disaster, it’s that everyone is (myself included)—I just didn’t know them well enough (ditto). The truth is, the more and better you get to know people, the more mysterious and strange they become. It also helps that, in church, you are forced into contact with (and are supposed to actually care about!) people to whom you might not naturally gravitate or relate.

On the latest episode of This American Life, we meet Neal Smither, professional crime scene cleaner. Neal’s takeaway from years of household gore remediation? “People are dirtbags. I had no idea. I thought everyone was normal, but the normal is the dirtbagginess. It’s 80/20 dirtbag.” Preach, Neal. Preach.

I have a doctor friend in Manhattan who has said much the same thing. He’s made house calls at multi-million-dollar Park Avenue apartments only to find the tenants living in complete squalor. Earlier in my ministry, I was quite envious of the intimate details patients would share with him. Why weren’t my parishioners as honest with me? I wonder…

People are disasters. They are dirtbags. Myself included. What’s the most exhausting thing about having people to my home? The hour my wife and I spend cleaning in order to maintain the ruse that we’re good, hygienic folk. “White-washed tombs,” Jesus called us; a “perverse and sinful generation.” Easy, big guy.

But here’s the thing: before I knew that people are dirtbags, I had no hope of actually loving them. Myself included. Genuine love can only be shown to and experienced by genuinely disastrous people. As Luther wrote, “If the mercy is true, you must bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners.” I seem to recall someone once saying that He came “not for the healthy, but for the sick.”

So here’s to all you dirtbags out there. I’ll see you in church.