The Spiritual Check-Up

1:30 AM

Traipsing into the doctor's office embarrasses me beyond belief. Not because strange apparatuses poke me at every turn. Not because the nurse asks awkward questions. Not because I sit swinging my feet and wringing my hands for ten minutes until the doctor comes in.

It's embarrassing because said doctor will come in and find nothing wrong with me that antibiotics won't fix. Just some pesky chest cold, usually. I feel awful for him. How much of his career revolves around freezing off warts, listening to hypochondriacs and prescribing the same medicine for the same things over and over again? And then in come I, with my thrilling list of symptoms. (I think I see him cringing before he comes in to listen to my complaints.) Walking pneumonia isn't as interesting as a rare tropical diseases sprouting antlers out of my head and trailing a rainbow across the floor. It's hard to feel justified in garnering sympathy -- and wasting the doctor's time.

I'm sort of on the lookout for that rare tropical disease. Every day brings some new sort of ailment -- pinching stomach, sudden loss of voice, extreme dizziness, weak ankles, weird pains in the knee. Unfortunately they stem from boring things like hunger, choir, swing dancing, running in bad shoes and teenage arthritis, respectively. One day, everything started falling apart. I wanted to crawl up in a ball in the corner of the student union's leather couch and never, ever move.

"Water, please," I dramatically croak.

"What's wrong?" the ever-attentive Claire asks.

"Death," I want to whisper.

I want to say that, but in truth, it's a combination of skipping two meals, not sleeping and reading one hundred pages out of the American Heritage reader without a break. The symptoms of chronic fatigue often come from my refusal to do the basics of eating a salad at lunch and going to bed before midnight. Boring, right?

It's the same for my spiritual life. This semester brought way too many panic attacks. They lasted until I talked it out with a friend. They disappeared when I spent an hour in prayer and meditation. There were pretty serious symptoms -- wanting to give up completely, crippling fear that I was going to defect, being riddled with the enemy's lies, guilt haunting me everywhere.

Thus I concluded I had contracted a serious spiritual disease. I couldn't shake it. I was doomed.

Then I recognized that my spiritual life mirrored my physical life. You know that painful hunger when you starve yourself in order to finish a book? And how that hunger goes away as soon as the book ends and you stuff yourself with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches washed down with 2% milk? It was like that. I starved myself of God -- not praying, not reading Scripture, not talking about God things, not asking for encouragement -- and I found myself starving, desperately starving. Then, just when I was about to faint from spiritual hunger, I chowed down on some meaty truth and was satisfied.

I got things in chunks instead of daily portions.

Just as this frame of dust wasn't made to go a couple days without sleep and food before it started rebelling, my spiritual frame wasn't made for once-a-month spiritual revolutions and revelations alone -- it flourishes on the simple, daily bread of walking with God every single day. I rolled my eyes at my mother's "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" advice. And then I found myself hungry and sluggish. I rolled my eyes at the simplicity of everyday prayer and Scripture reading. And then I found myself hungry, panicky and spiritually broken.

It's not just putting anything into my spiritual stomach. It's also important what I consume. I'd been poisoning myself with complaints, negative people, frustrating problems and unsolved philosophical issues. I read mostly school stuff -- which, at Hillsdale, includes many complicated, non-Christian things that make my head spin. All my conversations involved hearing other people's problems and relating mine. It killed my joy. It sickened me. A little thanksgiving -- goodness, even just a generic positive comment about pansies in spring -- could have been an antidote.

It's the simple things -- the daily bread, the Wheaties for breakfast, the prayer, the thanksgiving -- that keep the doctor away.

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3 impressions

  1. Wow... YES! I totally do this. I can relate to the reading and sandwiches thing, and the spiritual schizophrenia/anemia/anorexia as well. There's something alarmingly easy about becoming buried in something - oh so enticing, oh so important - to the point where we forget about basic sustenance. Reminds me of something Bonhoeffer said. "The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is bread or it is nothing."

    Thank you for the encouragement! I trust the Lord will continue to grow you step by step, morning by morning, as He leads you through the sometimes turbulent waters of university life. ;)

    ~ Nina

  2. Wise words, Bailey. Thank you for sharing your struggles. Just always remember this revelation (I speak as another blogger, and a sister in Christ, who comes to the grand conclusions and then forgets to keep living them out).

    Many blessings,

  3. oooh, yesyesyes, love this bailey! so true. i find when i'm struggling with depressive, anxious, or angry thoughts, i have to stop and ask myself "when was the last time you read your Bible? actually meditated on Scripture? listened to some worship music? talked to God? listened to a sermon? discussed God with a friend?" it seems so simple, but so hard to actually put into practice. i find at the end of the night, when i only have a few minutes to spare before i NEED to crash on my bed, i tend to use that time to scroll through meaningless posts on facebook than to ready a few Scriptures from His Word.


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