Did you know that I never missed a day of class my entire scholastic career? That’s right. I even got chicken pox over Christmas break! The only time I ever missed a day of class from kindergarten to graduation was my senior year when my high school allowed me to miss a week of class to go on a mission trip to Russia. I just had to write a report about the trip!
No Time for Sickness
Call it good genes. Call it good work ethic. Whatever you call it, I learned it from my parents. I cannot remember a day when my mom or dad missed work because of sickness either. My brother had perfect attendance too, except for the time I gave him chicken pox (sucker!) and the week he joined me in Russia.
We did not have time to get sick. There were too many things to do. We did not want to fall behind on schoolwork. Even if we were feeling a little ill, we found a way to press through it.
I even remember redefining sickness when I was in high school. I said, “Sickness is any time you are unable to do what you would normally do in a given day.” By this definition I was never sick. I may have felt ill from time to time, but I was not “sick” because I still carried on all the day’s activities.
While this attitude may have been rewarded in elementary school with perfect attendance ribbons and in high school with a plaque, God has been showing me how it is harmful when applied to my spiritual life.
“Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Matthew 9:12
No Time for Health
When I apply the same definition of sickness to my spiritual life, I end up in a pretty rough place. I often sense that something is off in my connection with God or feel conviction from the Holy Spirit, but I silence the symptoms of my illness by doing what needs to be done that day. I still have a quiet time. I still come the Campus House of Prayer. I still meet with students and pastors. I still meet all of my deadlines and and cross off everything on my to-do list. This has led me to believe that I’m well, but often I’m not.
I’m learning anew how to pay attention to my symptoms: joyless worship, stagnant prayer, dutiful obedience, repetitive sin, apathy, and overall heartlessness. I can’t just keep pressing on through this sickness any longer. I need to see a doctor and “miss a day of class.”
I love this quote from my former pastor Tom Nelson: “If your output is greater than your intake then your upkeep will be your downfall.”
This summer I plan to focus more on my inner life. I need to set some time aside to really be with Jesus, the great physician. I need to take some days off to renew my heart and mind. I need some time in nature. I need some time in books. I need some time with Brenda, with family, and with children. I need some time… some time to get well.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.