Vital Signs

How’s your IRA doing these days? One of the ways you can keep track of it—though as I understand it, it’s not a great idea—is to keep your eye on the daily stock market report with all of its ups & downs. Probably a better method is to pay attention to those quarterly reports you get from whomever is managing your account. However you do it, if you have an IRA or some other kind or retirement account, keeping your pulse on its vital signs is probably a good idea. Sometimes you may need to make some adjustments in that account.

How you doing physically? Had that annual check-up lately—or has it been more like a once-a-decade event? On my part, I appreciate our local hospital’s practice of offering area clergy an annual blood screening so we can at least keep track of the major stats. My wife’s company also offers a similar annual health screening where even more areas are evaluated. Nothing like getting those results to motivate a guy to get off the couch, exercise, watch the diet!

How’s your vision? Had the vital signs for your eyes evaluated within the last five years? I skipped a couple years, but recently went through some pretty extensive examinations in preparation for Lasik surgery. Glad I did. No real problems, but the doc did say I’ve got the very early signs of some cataracts forming. His estimate is in 10 years I’ll need to have that dealt with. That motivated me to look for some nutritional resources that could help keep those “eye clouds” at bay and hopefully keep the doc’s prediction from coming to pass—or at least give me a few extra years of clear vision. I’ll keep you posted on that.

And then there’s the regular dental exam. I’m ashamed to admit it, but we moved to Sterling in 2002 and my first visit to the dentist was in 2014. It was an emergency situation—broken tooth. The tooth got repaired easily enough. What wasn’t so easy was hearing about the problems that had accumulated as a result of failing to get regular exams. Sigh.

How about some spiritual vital signs? A few helpful instruments are available to bring us face to face with how we’re doing in our relationship with God. One is regular attendance in a good church that teaches the Bible, thereby confronting with the objective standard of God’s truth. Another is consistent personal reading the Bible and listening to the Holy Spirit as He applies it to your life. Yet another good place to go frequently is Galatians 5:22-23. Here’s what it says: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.…” The helpful thing about this list is we can look at each of those things that God’s Spirit develops in the life of the spiritually healthy Christian and let them function as “vital signs” of the Christian life. So, for example, I’m feeling pretty crabby today, short-tempered and a tad harsh in the way I’m responding to people. When I look at myself in such a condition compared to the “vital signs,” it’s like getting a blood sugar level of 175 (supposed to be less than 100) or a blood pressure of 198/135. Something’s wrong; I have an objective standard telling me so. Now I can take steps to correct things and be restored to health!

Why are we so reluctant to check the vital signs in the various areas of our lives? Maybe we fancy ourselves to be too busy. Hmmm…too busy to take proper care of ourselves. Something wrong with that picture, especially when we instinctively know such neglect will likely mean dealing with a problem that will take far more time, attention, energy, and recovery(!) than if we had just kept tabs on the vitals. Maybe, just maybe (though who would admit it?), we’re too afraid of what the vital signs will reveal. Understandable, perhaps. But it might be better to fear the effects of neglect – like a broken tooth, cavities, heart disease, distance from my Creator, messed up relationships….

Time to schedule a check up?