I have contemplated whether I should share something about this, since it’s a personal issue, but it’s kind of funny–and it may help to answer everyone’s questions all at once–so I’ll give it a shot.
It seems pretty evident that a lot of folks think I don’t look so good these days. I get asked regularly, usually a couple of times a week, “How are you doing?” Not the ordinary, somewhat cliched version of that question that we ask each other all the time, but with deep concern and compassion. I suspect some of you have even had a conversation or two about it among yourselves.
I understand where some of the concern is coming from. I have lost a good bit of weight in the last nine months, and have had my share of sickness, including cancer, in the last two years. But let me say–somewhat carefully–that with the exception of a few arthritic and orthopedic issues that come with many years of wear and tear, I am happy to say I am healthier than I have been in thirty years.
Some of my pathway to better health started last October, after my third bout with diverticulitis in seventeen months. Often, by the time a person has a third flare up of that disease, they have to have a foot or so of their lower intestine surgically removed, but I have dodged that bullet so far. But I decided that maybe I needed to take some steps to clean up my diet and consistently eat a little cleaner, in hopes that I could bring some healing to my gut.
Like the previous bouts with diverticulitis, I had lost about ten pounds in a couple of weeks in October, and didn’t look so good for a few weeks after that. But I thought that would be a good jump start to dropping a few more pounds, and with the healthier eating, and regular trips to the gym, I continued to shed the weight.
Then came the coronavirus and quarantine, and since the spring weather was nice, and I couldn’t get in a gym because of the shutdown, I decided to try to get my exercise by running. And over the last four months, I have made a good habit of it, running several days a week, even into the hot summer months. Which has helped keep me thinner and healthier.
But apparently, I still don’t look so good, and everyone thinks I’m dying.
I’m sure the fact that I had cancer a few years back has something to do with it, but as of next week I will have been cancer free for two full years. And so far I am avoiding any more diverticulitis struggles, though I hesitate to write this, knowing that they could potentially flare up again at any point–at which time we’ll have to cancel out that “healthier than I’ve been in thirty years” comment from above.
I guess I should be grateful that you all are concerned, though I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t plan my funeral just yet, or start rounding up a new pastor search team any time soon. And I hope you can get used to seeing less of me–as in, quantity of content, not time–because I hope to maintain my current habits and stay at my current weight and health. If my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, then I want to make sure I continue to keep the building properly maintained.
I’m guessing you are wondering if there is a point to this. Yes, and here it is: You can’t always get a good read on someone’s health just by looking at the externals. And the same goes for churches.
I know this has been a time of struggle for us as we continue to try to ride out this COVID-19 pandemic. I know that many have not been able to attend public worship, we have not had our Life Groups, and many of our small groups have not been able to meet. I also know that, on the surface, you would think our church is having a hard time. But if you look a little deeper, you see some very healthy things going on in the life of our church body.
One glaring example of that is our Vacation Bible School this week (and next). No, we are not gathered on our church campus for a busy VBS, with more than a hundred kids in one place, lots of noise and excitement, and exhausting ministry. But we do have several VBS groups gathered, in our neighborhoods, reaching children down the road and around the block, teaching God’s word, connecting with families and sharing the gospel, even in the middle of a pandemic. The church gathered is a wonderful thing; the church mobilized for ministry is pretty exciting too.
And there are several other examples of connected relationships, one-to-one daily discipleship, students living on mission, practical ministry to those in need, and believers being the hands and feet of Jesus in their community–the church being the church, even if we aren’t all in one place at the same time.
Really, it all comes down to us being collectively what we are individually–who we are “together,” even when we are not physically together. If we are each seeking the Lord, serving Him, and living spiritually healthy lives, then our church body will be healthy too, and there’s plenty of evidence that is the case.
All that to say, our church body may look a little “thinner” during this crazy season, but there are several encouraging “vital signs” that tell us that we are pretty healthy after all. And that’s especially encouraging, considering the kind of obstacles we have faced in 2020 so far.
As the apostle John wrote to his friend Gaius in his third epistle, “…I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” In other words, I pray the Lord will grant you a healthy body, and a healthy soul, as you walk with Him this week. It’s a joy to be your pastor, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.