When we think of good health and well-being, we think of how we live. Those daily routines, repeated day in and day out over a lifetime - heart pumping exercise, healthy eating, getting to bed on time - are all good and necessary daily investments for maintaining good health. But as I enter my 60th year of life, I realize that
My health and well-being have been impacted by what I’ve learned as much as by how I’ve lived.
In my 20’s, I learned that you can’t push down emotional pain.
Yes, you can medicate it, run from it, and try to distract yourself from it.
But much like how our body grows new vessels to compensate for a blocked one so blood can continue to flow, emotional pain always finds a pathway for expression. After a few years of emotional stuffing, debilitating panic attacks became my body’s way of letting me know that I had emotional pain that was festering. I was falling apart and that feeling led me to seek healing that God provided, over time, through many different sources, both spiritual and secular. Falling apart led me to a hopeful future and to a deeper relationship with and dependence on God.
Dear 20-year old self,
Sometimes God will let you feel like you are falling apart so you will seek Him for healing from the inside out. Will you go into the deep waters and cooperate with God as He heals your hurts?
In my 30’s, I learned that it is counterproductive to sacrifice self-care in the name of serving others.
Yes, I wanted to bless my husband, give my children more than I’d been given, and invest in the lives of others.
But a few years of sacrificing self-care taught me that service is not just about what we do. Our service to others is also about our “who.” How we show up in the world and in our relationships matters as one of our Kingdom roles is being an ambassador for Christ. A lot of doing does not compensate for damage done by showing up as the opposite of Christ-like. “Why is mom so grouchy? What does it take to make my wife smile? Why is she so difficult to work with today?” Everything is connected and how I feel physically and emotionally impacts how I express the gifts of the Spirit in my attitude, my words, and my actions.
Dear 30-year old self,
Taking care of yourself is as much about your “who” as it is your “do.” Who do you want to be?
In my 40’s, I learned that my pursuit of health outcomes can sometimes overshadow the true reason for staying healthy.
Yes, I wanted to practice what I preached about healthy living, do what it takes to meet the “good health” metrics, and go after some goals.
But my pursuit of outcomes led to some pretty unhealthy behaviors that led me away from the real objective of healthy living. My focus on outcomes resulted in painful injuries from unwise workouts like trying to do yoga like someone in her 20’s. It also resulted in wasted mental energy devoted to perfecting my nutritional profile when my eating habits already supported everything God was asking me to do. Healthy living is not intended to be an end in itself. It is a means to be the person God wants me to be and do what He asks me to do.
Dear 40-year old self,
Focusing only on outcomes takes you away from the best motivation for healthy living - to maximize and manage well what He has given you to serve and shine! What are you really trying to accomplish?
In my 50’s, I learned the loving without limits creates stress that will make you sick.
Yes, I want to love the unlovely, prioritize mercy over consequences, and believe the best about bad behavior.
But there is only so much drama a person can take without compromising their own health and well-being. A stress-induced autoimmune disease taught me that. Some people stir the pot just to get a reaction from the cook who has dinner coming along just fine. Some people upset the apple cart and expect others to clean up the mess. We are called to love those with words, actions, and patterns of behavior that fill the room with drama and distress. Part of being healthy is deciding when, where, and how we will use our limited amount of energy to serve those who desire ascendancy or attention more than real answers.
Dear 50-year old self,
The greatest lover of all time (Jesus) served sacrificially while setting limits as He served. What limits might help you to expend your energy more wisely?
Good health is about how we live.
Good health is also about what we learn
(sometimes the hard way).
Good Health for Good Works Challenge Questions:
Where might emotional pain be expressing itself in your body today? How are you dealing with it?
Who are you after a season of neglecting self-care? Who do you want to be?
What is the motivation behind your latest health improvement effort? What are you trying to accomplish?
Where, in your life, might loving without limits be having a negative impact on your health and well-being? How might you use your energy more wisely?
About the author:
Ginger Hill is a Christian wellness speaker, coach and consultant and the founder of Good Health for Good Works where she helps the earnest, but often exhausted, workers in Christian organizations to take steps toward healthier living so they can fulfill their organization's mission with energy, excellence and endurance.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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