I was going to die... unless I made a change.
A little over a year ago, I was hospitalized due to high blood pressure. This wasn’t new. I had been dealing with a number of health issues for years: high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, poor sleep habits, poor eating, and more. I just had never really taken any of it seriously.
But this time… this time was serious. This time all of my previous symptoms were accompanied by a constant headache that I had not been able to shake for nearly two months. My blood pressure was 186/112. To put that in perspective, the American Heart Association has a blood pressure chart ranging from green (normal) to dark red (hypertensive crisis) and my numbers put me in—you guessed it—the dark red range.
Critical action was needed.
That day in the hospital, I realized I needed to change.
Up until that day, I had found it much easier to blame anything other than myself. For years, I had blamed my busy schedule. I am a full-time pastor and church planter as well as a full-time school district superintendent. Plus, I have a son with special needs.
Maybe you are like me. Maybe you feel like you are too busy...busy with good things like coaching and volunteering. Or maybe you feel like your kids’ schedules have maxed out your time. Maybe you feel like you have inherited bad genetics. You feel your disposition and/or body lends itself to poor health. Maybe you have emotional wounds from the past that still have not healed, and you have tried to fill those holes with all the wrong things.
Regardless of your situation, I pray that God would use my story to inspire you to make your health a priority.
That day in the hospital, I realized that part of God’s calling on my life was to care for my physical body so that I might serve others. I don't really know why I had not taken this truth to heart before. I had heard this calling in Scripture many times. The Bible refers to our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. It says that we have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The image of a temple evokes holiness—something sacred and set apart. And the fact that Jesus paid the ultimate price for us also demonstrates our high value. Because this is true about us and our bodies, we should view both with the greatest esteem and value. And yet I had not. I felt helpless, stuck in a cycle of not properly caring for my sacred body—the Holy Spirit’s temple.
Perhaps, like me, you have felt helpless about your own situation. You have tried to make changes in the past, but they didn’t work, or you couldn’t stick with them, or you found yourself back where you started… but with less and less hope.
In my situation, I came to a place where there really was no other option but to change. I had to, or my time on this earth was going to be cut short.
What did I do?
First, I changed how I viewed my body. I recognized it as a valuable gift from God. When I changed my perspective, gratitude for every aspect of my body overwhelmed me. God opened my eyes to my need for a healthy body in order to continue serving Him in my home, my church, my community, and my school. And, in turn, I committed to faithfully care for my temple.
Next, I adjusted how I looked at food. In the past, I had misused and misunderstood food. I had often substituted it for healthy coping mechanisms, used it as a reward for myself, and regarded it as one more time-wasting task on my already overwhelming to-do list. But now I see food as an essential part of caring for my precious body.
Once I saw my food as a way to fuel my temple, I shifted how I ate. I changed my eating pattern to six small portion meals each day, one every 2-3 hours. While I thought I would be hungry eating smaller meals, I actually felt fuller throughout the day. Also, I’ve found that these frequent meals provide my body with the fuel it needs to feel energized and be more productive as I tackle my ministry from early morning into the late evening.
Then, I focused on what I consumed. I cut added sugars, processed foods, and canned soda out of my diet, and I added water to it. I now drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. Thanks to the quality of the foods that I am consuming and my increased water intake, my mental clarity has significantly improved.
Finally, I reconfigured my routines. I started by making sleep a bigger priority. For years I was aware that more sleep would be beneficial, but it had always been hard for me to carve out that time from other parts of my day. Now I sleep eight hours a night, on average, and it has done wonders for my body and state of mind. I also added a morning routine of reading, prayer, journaling, stretching, and exercise. According to my wife, I’m in a better mood 99% of the time, and the joy of the Lord is more evident in my life.
It certainly wasn’t easy for me to change the unhealthy thought processes, patterns, and routines I had practiced for most of my life, but I was (and still am) willing to do the extra work to keep my body holy, to keep junk out of it, and to protect it. Each of the adjustments I listed above has helped me do just that, and, as a result, God has transformed my temple.
What about you?
Where do you find yourself today? Maybe you’re exhausted from years of trying to fight an uphill battle for your health or worn out from your time and energy being used up for everyone else, with none left for you.
If you can relate, I would like to encourage you today... God knows your struggles. He designed you. You were His idea. He bought you at a price and wants to transform your temple, give you the strength to make the tough choices, offer you the hope to see what is possible, and provide the encouragement that only comes from the One who knows and loves you deeply.
Imagine what your life could look like a year from now if you truly committed to making changes to improve your health. How would your teaching, mood, energy, health, and ministry benefit? I hope my story encourages you. You are worth it.
Dr. Tim Parson is a recently retired school superintendent and a senior pastor/church planter in South Central Kentucky. He is a graduate of the Doctor of Education program at the University of the Cumberlands and a proud husband and father.
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