I believe that a vacation is a time for rejuvenation. It’s a time to rest my body and my mind, to recover from the demands of my regular life. It’s a time when I step away from my normal responsibilities and allow myself to breathe. During my last vacation, I covered everything I needed to in order to rejuvenate my body and my mind, and I was pretty sure that I had also covered everything I needed in order to rejuvenate my spirit.
Almost as soon as I stepped off the plane in Jamaica, I was at my gynaecologist and my dentist getting my body checked up. I spent six days of each week that I was there with my trainer getting my body tuned up. Also, over my month-long break, I spent quality time with my family and friends catching up, sharing and reinforcing bonds that tuned up my heart and mind. As to my spirit, I thought that I had planned a solid tune up.
Before I left Yakutsk at the beginning of August I was feeling really spiritually dry, which isn’t surprising. As I’ve said before, during this current period of my life, I pastor myself. I do my best to stay immersed in God’s presence mainly through my personal Bible study, and by listening to sermons and Christian music (like, all the time when I’m not working or socialising). What I haven’t been doing is attending church – most churches here are Russian Orthodox, which isn’t up my street at all. I also haven’t been part of a biblical community, that is, a community of people who meet to study God’s word together, help each other in different ways, and hold each other accountable.
I recognised my spiritual dryness a few months into this year, so when I was planning my summer wanderings I decided that what I needed was an extended time of praise and worship with fellow believers. It never once occurred to me during my planning that the main thing I needed to combat my dryness was to go get my spirit checked up, then follow that up with a tuneup of praise and worship. So I planned my first stop for the Joyce Meyer conference in San Jose. It was wonderful but I left there with a sense of having not gotten all that I had expected. I mean, I felt moved several times during the weekend but I didn’t feel full to overflowing as I thought I would.
Then I proceeded to Jamaica, where my stay included two Sundays, both of which I spent at my church having good, tear-inducing, hand-raising times of worship with my fellow believers. After that was done, I got on a plane back to Yakutsk, happy that I’d had those times of worship but still not feeling full the way I thought I should. Here, if I needed it, was proof that Sunday church is wonderful but the Christian walk is far more than that.
What I subsequently realised was that I had missed scheduling a vital, up close and personal spiritual checkup. Totally missed it and didn’t even realise it until about a month ago. In retrospect, this was stupid of me because the last time I headed west, after my extended stint in Indonesia, the most important thing that I did was to meet up with my spiritual mentors to get that spiritual checkup and tuneup.
Actually, back in May and June when I was sitting in my flat laying out my summer holiday plans, I had briefly thought of going to Atlanta to visit one of my favourite churches and to see Spiritual Mentor #1 but I didn’t think that was what I needed. I figured that the last time I was there, I had received guidance and direction which I’m still working through, so I dismissed the notion of adding that stop to my journey, figuring that they wouldn’t have anything new to share anyway. I thought that if I just immersed myself in worship with other believers then I would be good.
To be honest, I haven’t kept in as frequent contact as I should with my two spiritual mentors. Perhaps if I had, they would have been able to prompt me to come their way and I would have gotten what I really needed.
So there I was, back in Yakutsk from my holiday, living life as usual – giving my all at work, continuing to immerse myself in God’s word – but still not feeling full. I was also feeling stuck on some decisions I’ve been needing to make but I lacked clarity and wasn’t finding any direction, no matter how I prayed and sought it. I was blocked and had no idea how to get unblocked.
Thank God for the obedience of Spiritual Mentor #2, who called me one night because she had felt a strong prompting by the Holy Spirit to do so. By that time, we hadn’t spoken for a few months so we spent a while updating each other on the nitty gritty of our lives. I shared with her how I was still feeling dry, even after the measures I had taken over the summer, and she told me that what I needed was to get a spiritual checkup with Spritual Mentor #1 (who is also her mentor), because I hadn’t done so for almost two years and I need to get that done regularly. I had no idea I needed that kind of regular checkup but as soon as she said it, I knew that was what I had missed.
So what’s a spiritual checkup, exactly? Well, I go to the doctor for my annual physical, where he tests my blood pressure and blood sugar levels and carries out other tests to ensure that things are working as they should. I may feel fine when I go in for my checkup but something could be off. Or I may feel off and be unsure of the cause. Either way, he can pinpoint any issues through the various tests he does. If he does find that something is off then he prescribes medication to help me get things back on track. My spiritual mentor does something similar. I spend time with her examining myself and allowing her to pull things out that I may not even be aware are festering inside me, then I accept her guidance on how to deal with the issues that arise. I leave the process with renewed spiritual energy and a feeling that cobwebs and dust (and sometimes uglier things than that) that thrive in darkness and neglect have been exposed to the light and cleaned up.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
Having gotten this revelation of the need for a spiritual checkup and having realised my mistake, what could I do about it now? Not that much, actually. My thankfulness for technology and telephones meant that I reached out to a couple of possibilities for assistance in this area but that thankfulness was short-lived because I haven’t gotten anywhere with that as of now. So if nothing works out over the next few months, I’ll get myself sorted out when next I have an opportunity.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)