When I first moved back to Charlotte a few years ago, I was still traveling internationally, A LOT. I would regularly hop on a flight to Dubai, or London, or Brisbane, or Johannesburg….. It sounds amazing and glamorous and there were definitely some wonderful things that came out of that season of life. But let me tell you what it was mostly: EXHAUSTING. And, I kept getting sick ALL OF THE TIME.
Being sick was my norm. My white blood count was LOW. Like really really low. Every germ I was exposed to turned into some sort of cold (or worse). I went to infectious disease specialists and cancer doctors. I was poked and prodded to the extreme. They found nothing. nada. zilch. zero. No idea why my body doesn’t produce white blood cells like other people.
It still doesn’t. Actually, I think my last white blood count reading was the lowest it’s ever been. During that season, my mom kept reminding me that no one else would care more about my health and overall wellness than I did. Not my bosses….I was traveling and producing work. Why would they want me to do less? Not friends and family. It’s not like they didn’t care, but they weren’t as invested into me as me. Only I had the most control over the situation. Because it was MY situation. My health. My wellness.
I made some changes. I began to own my health. I started doing cardio several times a week, lost weight, improved my diet, started taking vitamins and cut most of the crap out of my diet. [Doritos, chips and salsa, chocolate chip cookies and diet coke still remain my favorite foods ever.] I got healthier.
But, wellness isn’t just about health. Wellness is the active pursuit and stewardship of living a healthy lifestyle. It encompasses your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health. The World Health Organization defines it as the “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being….” But I think it’s more than that. It’s not a static state. There’s no final destination. It’s a journey that is different for every person. While you might live in a state of wellness, you can always achieve more. It’s just like Jesus. There is always more of Him.
Your wellness is your responsibility. You have to own it. And, you have to give yourself grace as you do so in that active pursuit and stewardship. It’s a journey. Not a destination.
1 Timothy is a letter from Paul to Timothy, who was sent to Ephesus to guide the maturation of the church there. In the letter, Paul instructs Timothy on how to lead the church. Ephesus was a wealthy and highly influential city. Supporting the maturity of the Christians in Ephesus was a top priority for Paul. Among many other directions in this letter and others, Paul told Timothy to explain to his brothers and sisters in Christ that in order to be a good servant of Jesus Christ, they needed to “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4: 7-10)
See that bolded area? Train yourself. Don’t ask someone else to do it for you. Or expect God to do it for you. You’ve got to have some skin in the game. You’ve got to own your own wellness journey. [For those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our savior, we do know that there is an ultimate destination, and that is eternal life with Him.]
Paul is also directing followers of Christ to prioritize their time. To get their minds away from silly things. [Hello, reality TV?! #shadethrown] To focus and spend time becoming godly….to focus on their spiritual health.
Spiritual health is foundational to our overall wellness. It is the rock from which the rest of our life operates. It impacts our emotional, mental and physical health. While the journey includes a pursuit of all of these, Paul tells us what to prioritize: our spiritual health.
What do you prioritize? Have a look at your schedule and how you spend your time. Pull out your phone right now. Look at that calendar. That will give you immediate insight into your priorities.
Do you spend time with God on a daily basis? Are you investing into your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health?
Stephen Covey says, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Take control of your calendar. Take control of your priorities.
Ok, so let’s go back to that time period in my life when I was sick all of the time. Because it wasn’t just my physical health that was poor….I was struggling in other dimensions of wellness as well….
On the outside it probably seemed like I had it all. Amazing job, involved in my church, dating a God-fearing man, great relationships with my family and friends. And all of that is so true. But digging a little deeper….peeling away those layers of onion….you would see that I was not investing in my own wellness the way that God (through Paul) calls us to do. [And, I was pretty good at persevering through illnesses so most people would have had no idea how often I was sick.]
Some of my relationships, including the dating one, were incredibly unhealthy. And, as I mentioned, I was a workaholic, I ate poorly and I didn’t work out the way that my body needs to be healthy. I did ‘bible study’, but I didn’t make God my first priority. I was half-heartedly owning pieces of my wellness journey AND I hadn’t made my spiritual health the first priority. God didn’t get ALL of me.
But y’all. It’s a journey. And I wouldn’t be where I am now without that season of life. I’m so thankful for it. AND, God still doesn’t get all of me. I have to CONSTANTLY remind myself what my priorities need to be.
So….that season of life? It came with some changes that were progressively implemented. Meaning, I didn’t change everything all at once. I built on what God had been teaching me from previous seasons of life. [And, I look forward to maturing in wellness in the future, looking back on this current season of life.]
As I began to invest in my physical health, it also dawned on me that I needed to invest in my spiritual health. [I also started putting boundaries around many of those relationships and my emotional and mental health improved.]
I started dedicating the first thirty minutes to an hour every day for bible study and prayer. I figured out what would work for me to go deeper in the Word and I started seminary. [Those of you with more drive probably don’t need seminary….I need the accountability that comes with getting a grade.] My prayer journal became love letters of thanksgiving to our Father. And, I started hearing His voice and direction more consistently and clearly.
All that being said, I still mess up and there are times when I’m straight up lazy. Y’all, there are days when I just want to skip that first hour with God, not work out, eat pizza, and watch Netflix all day and so, I do! Those days happen. But I don’t let myself be too hard on myself. I give myself grace. Just like the Father gives me grace, over and over and over and over. And in all of that I remind myself that I have to own my own wellness and co-labor with God in it. Ultimately, it’s a journey. One that is a gift. One that I’m so thankful for because that journey is bringing me closer to the Father.