I recently had my physical at the doctor’s office. Not just my regular prescription-renewal-check-the-vitals quick stop into the office; the full, special long appointment with the nurse practitioner, we all know the drill. It’s an awkward hour, what with the robes that don’t quite do up and the paper-covered exam table. The later trek, fasting, for the (seemingly endless) bloodwork (bless the phlebotomists who deal so well with people like me who are terrified of needles!).
Is it fun? No. Comfortable? Definitely not. Something I look forward to? Nope.
Is it something that I make sure I book regularly? Absolutely.
So if I don’t enjoy it, why do I do it? Because the benefits definitely outweigh the awkwardness.
There’s the basic awareness of where my health is now; a record of all the good things and the areas where I could use a little work. There’s the comfort of knowing that I have been examined by a medical professional who is trained to notice things that I may overlook. There’s the ability of that professional to check areas that I literally could not self-examine. There’s the space to ask the little questions I wouldn’t bother the doctor about, which may lead to a deeper conversation. And, of course, the lab tests that investigate things that most people can’t even pronounce, let alone think about on a daily basis.
So I have my physical check-up; for awareness, for peace of mind, for prevention. If something shows up, it can be addressed; otherwise it’s out of the way until next time. Most of us do it; when we miss we know we should have done it; after it’s over we wonder why anyone would refuse this simple, preventive health service.
It makes me wonder, then, how we do a check-up on our spiritual health. Have we considered our spiritual health on a monthly basis by ourselves? Would we be willing to undergo a regular check-up with a professional?
Of course, there would be benefits to a spiritual health check-up: we could highlights areas where things are working and where they could improve; we could be challenged to consider practices and foci previously unknown or not given though; we could ask those questions that start deeper reflection. We may find new ways to engage in our relationships with God, with our families, with the world. We may recognize ways where our faith nurture is lacking, and identify plans to improve and augment that journey. We may prevent future malaise or discomfort by addressing spiritual questions and concerns in healthy ways, before they become problematic. We may develop habits that build up our spiritual resistance and strength in ways we cannot even imagine.
Whether it’s on our own, with a clergy, with a spiritual director – it’s a good idea to do that deep assessment now and then.
The time may be uncomfortable at first, it may seem awkward, the questions will be quite personal. We may not often think about our prayers (do we pray enough? Are we focusing on the right things? Are we listening as well as talking? Do we give thanks as well as make requests?); our scripture reading (could we even find the bible on the shelf? Do we have a favourite passage? If yes, why does it speak to us?); our application of faith (How do we act out our faith when we’re not in church? Do our habits reflect our Christian values? In what areas do we not demonstrate our discipleship?); our relationships (when do I feel closest to God, and why? When do I feel farthest from God, and why?). The questions go on. The answers will change depending on where we are.
Knowing how healthy we are spiritually is worth the time and the effort. Ignoring our physical health is not a wise decision, nor is ignoring our spiritual health. Perhaps we ought all to make that appointment for that special (needle-free!) health check – for our benefit now and in the future.