Spiritual fitness is as important as physical fitness

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- I have noticed since I set foot on Incirlik almost two years ago that people are willing to endure a lot to keep their bodies in shape. They will execute, with meticulous precision, diets, weight-lifting and aerobic routines, cycling feats, chin-ups, sit-ups and push-ups. It takes discipline to complete these routines, and discipline is never easy.

Spiritual health, or, spiritual fitness as it's termed in the Air Force, takes discipline as well. Exercised faith regularly grows strong and vibrant, while ignored faith becomes weak and flabby.

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army; Mother Theresa, the missionary to India's poor; Amy Carmichael, who established a home for the children of Hindu temple prostitutes; Billy Graham, noted as the greatest evangelist of the 20th century; and Corrie Ten Boom, whose family hid Jews from the Nazis - I am sure all of these are listed among God's spiritually disciplined heroes. They are heroes because they knew their faith, and spirituality ultimately made them uniquely human and of substantial value to the rest of the world.

Spiritual fitness begins with discipline and commitment just like physical fitness. No one ever began a race, walked a walk, or completed a journey without discipline.

When I was a boy, I would run with my friends on the playground at school. Eventually, someone would say, "Let's race." We would get the teacher to set us off with the standard: "On your mark, get set, go!" However, some never ran. They never committed themselves to the venture and instead only watched. Running a race, walking the walk, completing your spiritual journey is not a spectator event. It takes discipline.

Many of us have likely attempted or completed our physical New Year's resolutions to get our bodies in shape, but what about our spirits? Are you ready to make a spiritual resolution?

I have noticed that for many, including myself, we are spiritually consuming junk. When we put junk into our spirits, it is only natural that we will produce junk.

What we must consume in our spiritual diet are motivational books, appropriate music, edifying television, fun and decent video games, genuine relationships, worship services/mass/gatherings and anything else that helps us to understand ourselves and our spiritual nature better. I want to offer to you these four things I believe will assist you in becoming more spiritually fit:

Stretch. Without stretching and enriching your soul through spiritual learning, you can overextend or hurt yourself or others. Remember that you are only able to receive from others that which you have given. When you go home at the end of your work day, be sure to stretch your mind and heart in new ways to incorporate the changes that have occurred not only in your life, but in the lives of your loved ones. Be willing to give
of yourself and not take others for granted so that your relationships will be enriched and not suffer instead.

Do knee bends! Knee bends require having the right attitude. Become a servant, leader or wingman and "bend down" to help others. Being a servant leader or wingman means being patient with others, being willing to do the jobs that don't get noticed but are essential to mission accomplishment, and being kind to someone who you may not like or who you know may not like you. Bending down to lift others up in your life, whether it is a co-worker, your spouse, children, or a friend or foe, can be the greatest reward if your spiritual nature is as developed as it should be.

Cultivate spiritual team building activities. As "iron sharpens iron," we, too, help equip each other spiritually for the fight. Aiding in team and family growth takes being a good team player. This means working for consensus on decisions, sharing openly and authentically with others regarding personal feelings, opinions, thoughts and perceptions about problems and conditions. It also means involving others in the decision-making process, providing trust and support, having genuine concern for the problems of others, and be willing to compromise.

Take a look in the mirror. Constantly evaluate your spiritual-centeredness and accept who you are, including your gifts as well as limitations. Live up to your potential and believe that through both the good and the bad you are a vital and integral part of this wing family, and more importantly, of your family/relationships at home.

If you are disciplined and perform the spiritual development exercises prescribed here, both your Air Force and your personal family will notice that not only are you more physically and mentally fit, but that you are also more spiritually fit in order to successfully obtain personal achievement, relationship bliss and overall job-related mission accomplishment.