What does it really mean to be healthy in the fullest sense of the word? This is a question that I was working through during my time preparing to go to Kenya. I want to set myself up to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle in Nairobi. I view the next two years as the first couple miles of a marathon that I have been training for for the past 15 years. How I pace myself and the habits I establish now will affect how I am able to do ministry in the future. I don’t want to sprint through the next two years and then be too exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually to give anything else. I want to live at a pace that is sustainable so that I don’t burn out. That being said I have come up with some goals for how to be living healthfully during the next two years.
This is one of the most obvious categories of health. I have noticed though that when I am physically fit I am more emotionally and spiritually healthy as well. Therefore, I am making a concerted effort to keep running and doing yoga while living in Nairobi. I recently started training for my first full marathon in November! I have found that it really helps me to have specific goals to work toward. If I don’t have a specific short or mid term goal my long term of being fit doesn’t happen. Sleep is also a really important part of physical health for me. During college I would get sick, often for weeks at a time, if I didn’t get enough sleep.
Maintaining emotional health is really important for me. I am a person who feels things very deeply, and if I am not careful I can easily allow my feelings about something to eclipse what is true. I have to remind myself that while my feelings are valid, they are not what should rule me. I need to submit them to my Heavenly Father and ask Him what is true and how I should respond. This will be especially important working with a difficult and marginalized people group. I cannot allow my emotions to rule my life. If I do I will drown under the weight of my work each day. God’s peace will be necessary to make wise decisions and to not take on a load of responsibility that I was not meant to bare.
In order to do my job well I have to be careful to maintain spiritual health. John 15:4-5 offers a clear demonstration of this, “Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (emphasis added) In order to be producing things of spiritual substance we must abide in Christ. It is from him that we get strength to pour ourselves out on the behalf of others. Practically, abiding for me looks like spending time with God every day (reading the Bible and in prayer) and setting aside a more extended time with God of around 3-4 hours once a week. These disciplines are not the goal but a means to an end. The goal is intimacy with Christ, but just like any other relationship, my relationship with God will not thrive unless I intentionally make time for it.
A large part of my job in Nairobi is language learning. I will be learning two new languages while I am here. One I’ll be getting to the point where I am able to hold spiritual conversations in it and the other I’ll be learning enough to get around Nairobi without seeming like a complete tourist. This is something that I am really excited but also nervous about. I am looking forward to stretching myself intellectually again after this past year not being in school. My top strength on StrengthsFinder is Input which basically means I really really like to read and learn new things. I actually find studying and writing research papers enjoyable at times.
Live simply. Give generously. Save wisely. These three statements sum up what my desire is for financial health. I will live on less than I make so that I can obey the Biblical commands to give and save. I am committed to stewarding the resources that God gives me well.
This is something that can be easy for me to over look, especially because of being introverted. However, I have realized in the first two months of being here in Nairobi that while I am introverted I’m also really social. I need to get out of the house and to hang out with people. I am having to learn how to balance working hard with taking time to make new friends. Last week I was able to go out with some friends after a particularly stressful week and it was so refreshing and life giving.
Without a doubt all of these categories of health are intertwined. You cannot neglect one without the others suffering as well. Health in any facet is a combination of hard work and knowing when to rest. It is one of my top priorities to simply be the healthiest person I can be during my time in Nairobi.