May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. – I Thessalonians 5:23
If you’re taking stock of your health this New Years season, I’m happy to recommend a book that has proven helpful to me this fall. There are more than a few of us, Christian and otherwise, who have our “pedal to the metal.” We work long hours, stay up late, and play hard in our free time. Our problem isn’t that we don’t exercise, or have the occasional smoothie filled with green things, it’s that we don’t have an off switch.
Authentic Health by Gus Vickery M.D., is just the book for such people. Though there are chapters on nutrition and exercise, they weren’t game changers for me (though the material about intermittent fasting was compelling). My health problems stem more from doing too much than too little, from going too fast than too slow. For these reasons, the chapters on sleep and stress reduction through meditation were a big deal. The material presented was compelling enough to motivate, and simple enough to take action immediately. I did, and am now sleeping eight hours a night most nights, and have moved my morning practice of meditating on scripture and praying to a higher level of priority and thus consistency. The results of these two things have been measurable; reduced resting pulse, reduced blood pressure, increased presence in the moment when in conversations with people, increased sense of peace and joy in situations that previously created stress for me, and less anxiety about the future.
Before the chapters on these matters are presented, the good doctor spends time challenging us to think about whether we really want good health enough to make needed changes, or if it’s just a wish dream. The chapters on motivation and habits are, in my opinion, worth the price of the book because the reality is that most of us reading this have ample time to create the kind of habits that will allow us to live in the fulness of Paul’s prayer that we prosper in spirit, soul, AND body. He suggests that we often unconsciously choose habits (foods, sedentary use of time, anxious thoughts). This book isn’t a promise, by any means, of immunity from disease or suffering. Far from it. Countless people do all the right things, and yet are victimized by cancer, or heart disease. On the other hand, it’s equally true, that a commitment to spirit/soul/body health not only mitigates the risks of contracting chronic diseases, it empowers us to do what we’re born to do!
My interest in health is, at the core, an interest in calling. I fully realize that whatever contribution I’m called to share with the world can only be made to the extent that I have the emotional, spiritual, and physical energy to be poured out. That energy cache is filled or depleted, to a large extent, by what I think about, what I consume, and how I use my time. As I grow older, I’ve discovered that my body is less forgiving of bad habits, too little sleep, too much exercise, too much junk food, too little meditation and prayer, have almost immediate negative effects showing up in my body and emotions.
I recommend the book because for too long, followers of Jesus have lived like gnostics, nurturing the invisible realm, while neglecting the body. This is not better than the opposite problem of materialists who are seeking to prolong bodily health forever, fearing its all they have. The real truth: You are an ecosystem, and your body, spirit, and soul feed off of each other’s health. Neglect any one of these three legs on the stool that is your life and you’ll fall over.
If you’re even thinking about “movement and play”, “eating for health”, “sleeping better” or “getting in the right mindset to live well” in 2019, I wholeheartedly recommend Authentic Health.
Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.