Spiritual Health

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Sometimes I think I’ve figured things out,  at least some things. However, certainty is an elusive, relative and transient thing. As soon as you think you might have it, it slips through your fingers like clutching a handful of beach sand. The harder you grasp the more it slips through your fingers.

When I was accepted to medical school, I thought I was pretty sharp, but I soon learned how little I understood. Then, by the end of my internal medicine residency, I again thought I had figured things out, until my first patients in private practice demonstrated to me how little I knew.

Various stages of my life have been pentacles of understanding, soon replaced by humbling revelations that my knowledge or abilities were incomplete or insufficient. I’ve finally made peace with this. In one of the greatest essays in Western thought, the Apostle Paul – no shabby philosopher – wrote, “We see in a mirror dimly and we know in part”  (1 Corinthians 13). In other words, our understanding will always be incomplete. I’ve come to accept this wise perspective.

Since the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, man has demanded objective proof through observation and scientific testing. And when carried to its logical conclusion, if you can’t measure something or explain it in an equation, it doesn’t exist. This is called materialism. I see this as hubris (arrogant pride) which The Proverbist says “goeth before a fall” (16:18).

I’m restudying the works of C. S. Lewis, Christian apologist and one of the great intellects of the 20th century. His book, “The Abolition of Man” is a tough read if you don’t like philosophical discourse or cringe at the thought of apologetics. However, several perspectives of the book are worth sharing, but first let me ask you a question: Where does virtue come from?

Simply defined, virtue is right attitude or thought. The ancients identified several concepts which they felt were “right.” These are common sense, courage, justice and moderation. These came to be known as the Cardinal Virtues. Do you agree that these notions represent basic virtues? The Greeks and Romans thought civilizations could be built on these precepts. However, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul would later add faith, hope and love to the mix. I see these Theological Virtues as modifiers of the Cardinal Virtues.

What is noteworthy is that these notions of right (virtues) are transcultural and apparently timeless. Let’s look at the notion of justice as a simple example. If someone breaks into line in front of you, most would view this as unjust. However, if you discount the notion of justice as a standard of behavior, how could you cry foul?

Lewis logically argues for such a standard of virtue and right. A yardstick with standard inches is necessary to measure a door frame. If there is no standard of measurement or absolute right there can be no wrong, only relative right as in the situational ethics of “Les Miserables.” Lewis argues that good and bad are only derived when compared to a absolute standard of right. He goes on to say that, if a civilization debunks such values and doesn’t teach them to each generation, man will devolve. We are now witnessing the devolution.

Recently, a friend thanked me for a copy of my book, “Well…What Did the Doctor Say?” (Easier to read than Lewis and a great stocking stuffer which is available at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com!) My friend lives in another town and can’t get The Focus in a newspaper format. Though we are friends, she observed that she now feels she “knows” me, having read my stories. Good writing comes from the heart, and though you may disagree with my thoughts, the prose is often better than the local fishwrapper fare.

I’m philosophically and spiritually trinitarian. I believe four choices are too many and two is not enough in most situations. I’ve told Becky that if we are ever on the Newlywed Game – it will never happen for obvious reasons – and the question is how many, she should say I’ll answer “3.”

Since The Focus is published only once a week, I am rarely contemporaneous with news of the day. This Advent Season, I decided to start early, throwing caution to the wind and sharing with you personal reflections which hopefully will be perceived more as gifts than hubris.

My writing “career” began seventeen years ago with spiritual journaling. Until that time, my only writing had been for school assignments and term papers. I have found that writing helps me focus and connect with the Spirit. I have never heard voices or had insightful dreams like Jesus’ father, Joseph. Perhaps my journal entries are spiritual daytime dreams. Hopefully, these musings and prayers connect my spirit with The Spirit which resides in that non anatomical space of my soul. I have found that during such times of reflection, concepts and insights have arisen that I can’t otherwise explain. Scriptural wisdom says to seek and you will find. I do and sometimes I see clearly – at least for a time.

As I meditate and write I become calmer and thankful of blessings which exceed my challenges. Admittedly, there are times when trust is a more relevant verb than thanks. Being trinitarian I have three As of thanks. I am thankful each morning that I awaken alive and able to reboot the computer that sits atop my shoulders. Furthermore, I am aware of the Way and in awe of the majesty and mystery of the Creation.

At this Christmas Season I’m also thankful for a faith that doesn’t require proof. If there was absolute proof there would be no place for faith. And I’m especially thankful for family and friends (3Fs). Lastly, I’m thankful for love and laughter and ever afters (a rhyming threesome).

So, this doctor’s recommendation at Advent is not the medical trinity of more exercise, lose weight and stop smoking. Of course these are laudable admonitions for physical health. But instead, I want to challenge you to spiritual health with a journey inward to the soul’s interface with the Spirit aided by spiritual journaling. A friend once challenged me to try it; it made all the difference for this pilgrim.

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