The Health Challenge: HEALTHY LIVING

Easter Sunday is a day my family looks forward to each year!  After coming out of the long journey of Lent, an incredible week of Pascha at Church – including Good Friday & the Resurrection Feast – we were excited to have the entire Church community over our house.  We would be preparing made-to-order omelets, Nutella covered bacon, and a bunch of other food.  Some of you might be wondering “what else was on the menu?”  Like I said, “Omelets & Nutella Covered Bacon!”  Easter Sunday had arrived!

Things Had Gotten Really Bad

Fast forwarding about 12 hours, as I sat on the couch following a day of “heavy snacking” – with a bowl of ice cream in one hand and a cup of “shay bi laban” (hot tea with milk) in the other – I was enjoying great conversation with my wife and two of my closest friends.  And then I felt it; something in my body did not feel right!  But everyone was tired so we all went straight to bed, and I decided to deal with it in the morning.  The next day, after climbing out of bed, I decided to climb unto the scale in the bathroom. Man, was I in shock!  Let’s just say my weight had peaked!  What was I to do?

Then It Happened

Before our friends got on the road to head back home to Virginia, my friend Monica invited me to join her in a health challenge.  Interestingly this is the same friend, who a few months before, looked at me very matter-of-factly and said “No offense, but you’re getting fat!” (Just as a side note, saying “no offense” does not make the subsequent statement any less offensive).  Anyway, I decided that this was going to be great!  I had just challenged the entire church a couple of days before to a spiritual challenge during the Holy 50 Days, the period of time between Easter and Pentecost that Copts (the Orthodox Christians of Egypt) do not fast. Jesus said, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”[1]  With all focus on the Risen Christ – the True Bridegroom of our souls – the Church was emphasizing through our relationship with food the very real Truth that Jesus had indeed Risen from the dead and IS with us.  So, no fasting!  Unfortunately, this period of time is oftentimes marked by spiritual obesity and excessive weight gain.  I knew what I would do as far as my spiritual discipline went, but I had always neglected thinking about my bodily health during this time.  Not this year!

The Challenge

We agreed that we would each aim to lose 5% of our weight by June 4th (my wife’s birthday and Pentecost this year)!  The Challenge was simple and the goal was SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).  I had 50 days to reach my goal of better spiritual and physical health!

Lessons Learned

1. True Friendship Will Challenge You to Grow: Whether it’s your parents, siblings, spouse, priest, spiritual mentor, or close friend, your friendships should challenge you to grow in every aspect of your life.  King Solomon, the wisest man to live, puts it like this: As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.[2]

2. Healthy Living Includes Taking Care of Body, Mind and Soul: Far too often, people tend to emphasize one of these areas at the expense of another.  Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it is the only body we will have for as long as we are on earth. So, we should take care of it.  St. John the Apostle, writing to the early church, said “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”[3]

3. Having a Goal is Not the Same as Having a Plan: In order to reach my goal, I need to figure out how I am going to get there.  It is not enough to just say “I want to lose weight really, really badly;”or “I want to get closer to God, and I’ll do anything for that.”  The real challenge is not in setting the goal but in coming up with a plan.  My prayer for you: “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”[4]  


Questions to Ponder

+ Who are the “friends” in your life who cause you to grow?  Do they have a green light to challenge you?

+ Do you tend to emphasize caring for your body, mind, or soul?  What might you do differently to ensure healthy living that does not ignore any aspect of your humanity?

+ List out some of your goals in life today.  Have you delineated a plan or stopped short at just setting the goals?


[1] Matthew 9:15

[2] Proverbs 27:17

[3] 3 John 2

[4] Psalm 20:4

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