Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spiritual health check-up?

I was wondering if it's possible to do a general checkup on spiritual health. What would it look like?

I've seen general check-up questions at a doctor's office:

How often do you exercise?
Do you smoke?
How much do you sleep on the average night?

I've seen general check-up questions at dentists, too.

I know that even going back to the 1500's, the church body to which I belong has encouraged people to use the Ten Commandments as a spiritual checkup, to run down that list and see how we're doing by using the law as a mirror to check ourselves and recognize any trouble.

There are areas of our lives not covered by the Ten Commandments, though -- or covered only in a general sense. How about, "Is your love for any person hindered by resentments, jealousies, or wrongs?" Or, "How peaceful is your life?" Or, "Do you love your neighbors?" and "Do you love God?"

The Beatitudes could easily help us see how we're doing: "Do you show mercy to others? Are you a peacemaker?" But that might be turning the beatitudes to a lesser use, when they are meant as proclamations of blessing, promises of God's goodness and faithfulness.

The Lord's prayer is, in a way, a daily check of our own thoughts and at the same time a way to build and strengthen what is good. It has an advantage over a checklist in that it confronts our sins only by putting us in the forgiving presence of God and insisting that we pray for forgiveness.

For spiritual health, there is a lot of ground to cover. In some ways simpler is better -- otherwise a checklist could easily be the size of the Bible.

The risk of even looking at developing a spiritual checkup tool is that there are Christians who are tempted to try to self-save, and some struggle with guilt over each and every imperfection. They do not turn their mercy towards themselves even though Jesus does. Some even defend this as if it were the right thing, naming a fear of spiritual laziness or indifference to sin (to which people like this are generally not tempted) to ward off the peace of forgiveness. In hands like those, a spiritual check-up of that sort would be just a tool for spiritual abuse.

So it might be worthwhile to have that as part of the checkup:
Does it bother you that you're not perfect?
Is it difficult for you to show mercy to yourself?
Does the idea of mercy ever offend you?

Or it might be worthwhile to have different check-up questions for different sets of needs -- just like a doctor might not ask quite the same questions of a heart patient and an anorexic.

I'd be really glad to hear all of your thoughts on this.

* A checklist based on the Rudyard Kipling poem, "If"
* A first draft of a spiritual health checklist


Martin LaBar said...

Good idea. I'm thinking, though, that at least some of the questions should be different for different people. I don't that greed is my besetting sin -- I've got some others. I should be careful not to be greedy, or steal or covet, but I think I should be more careful in these other areas.

Perhaps I'm wrong.

Weekend Fisher said...

I agree there's a need for each of us to get some focus on our problem areas, and some restoration / healing / soul-cleaning that's specific to those things.

I've seen chicken soup for the soul books, But I've wondered about PDR for the soul. I don't mean to be over-analytical; you lose the focus on "soul" just with the approach. But a resource-chest could be helpful.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF