“What has brought you here today? Did your wife make you come? Does your job require you to do this? Are you coughing something up? Is something hurting?” This was how my doctor opened my physical last week. When I told him I think physicals are a good idea, he said: “Oh, I see you were here the same time last year”.
This doctor did a really thorough physical! It’s always a joyous moment when the doctor says: “Now let’s check your prostrate”! The paper gown was also a highlight. Even with the indignities (No, I’m not looking for a debate about which gender endures more indignities. I’m pretty sure there are enough indignities to go around!), I’m a firm believer in the value of annual physicals. This hasn’t always been the case. I reluctantly started doing them when it was a Conference requirement. When the requirement was eliminated, I continued. It makes sense to me to look for issues early, before symptoms start causing a lot of problems. Cure rates tend to be greatly increased with early detection. Depending only on self-diagnosis seems like a dangerous thing to do. I want expert help!
It might be my age (surely that’s not it!), but the number of health professionals in my life seems to have increased. Not only do I have my general practitioner, I also have a: urologist; allergist; gastroenterologist; oncologist; ophthalmologist; dental hygienist; and a dentist. The recommendations from these health professionals then involves even more health professionals!
Why isn’t it an expectation for all of these specialities to be mastered by one person? Just writing this sentence makes it sound ridiculous. Each of these areas require training and practice. I’m pretty sure I don’t want my dental hygienist to operate on me!
How does our physical care compare to our spiritual care? I see both being vitally important to how we experience life. Do we ever do in-depth spiritual check-ups? How are we doing loving God and our neighbors? Ourselves? How kind are our words, thoughts, and deeds? Do we stand up to injustices? Do we use our power to help those without power? How is our prayer life doing? Our Biblical literacy? Do we share our faith with others? Are we generous with our resources? Is worshipping God part of our regular routine? Are we depending on self-diagnosis to answer these questions?
I’m in my fourth decade as a pastor. It has been rare in my experience for people to initiate in-depth conversations about how they are doing spiritually. It happens, but not as often as I would expect. How much are we trusting our pastors to help us to grow spiritually? Do we restrict their helpfulness to their sermons? When we do turn to our pastors, do we expect they will be a master of all spiritual specialities? Are there any other spiritual specialists?
I’m thinking about all the seminary professors I have known through the years, including one of my seminary classmates. When it comes to in-depth understanding of the Bible (including Biblical languages) and Biblical history (not to mention a lot of other subjects!), they can be a great resource. Spiritual Directors can be another resource to help with our spiritual journey. Mentors, Christian Counselors, and Christian Coaches can also be useful. I’m sure this is just a “starter list”.
Perhaps an annual spiritual check-up needs to be part of our life. It’s tempting to say we are doing “good enough” without ever looking very deep into our spiritual practices. This is even easier when we are depending only on self-diagnosis. Calling on help from a multitude of spiritual experts can be wise and eye-opening!
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Further thoughts: The time has come for my renewal leave to start this Sunday! Part of my renewal leave includes taking a break from my writing. This will be the last “Mark’s Musings” until September 10 (my leave ends on September 4). See you in September!