Spiritual fitness: Just as important as physical fitness

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) John Boulware and Staff Sgt. Mel Shipton
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
We have noticed since we set foot upon the ground here almost three months 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 the activities or 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 Shipton was a child, she would run with her friends on the playground at school.
Eventually, someone would say, "Let's race." She would get the teacher to set her and her competitors 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 and completing your spiritual journey are not spectator events. 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?

We have noticed that for many, including ourselves, that unfortunately we are spiritually consuming junk. When we put junk into our spirits, it is only natural 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, prayer times and anything else that helps us to understand ourselves and our spiritual nature better.

Here are five things I believe will assist you in becoming more spiritually fit:

Pray Together
Without praying together and stretching and enriching your soul through spiritual learning, you can overextend or hurt yourself or others. Remember you are only able to receive from others that which you have given. When you finally get a period of rest in your 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 -- i.e. become involved!
Knee bends require having the right attitude. Become a servant leader unto others in your community who are enduring the same hardships, disappointments or struggles you may be experiencing. Being involved with others and with organizations in our community means being patient with others, being willing to do jobs that don't get noticed but are essential to others' well-being 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 fellow military spouse, 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.

Non-compromised day of rest/intentional leave  
Develop a schedule that focuses first and foremost on non-compromised and/or intentional leave days. We are not able to remain spiritually fit if we are physically and mentally exhausted. Too often we plan to take time for ourselves or to be with our family, but in the end we allow outside distractions to take that allotted time. We then feel overwhelmed with life, our goals and desires. So, plan together as a family, times of rest and relaxation that have sanctified times, and don't allow that time to be compromised by anything.

Take a look in the mirror - personal accountability
Constantly evaluate your spiritual core and accept who you are, including your gifts as well as your own limitations. Live up to your potential and believe that through both the good and the bad you are a vital and integral part of our Air Force family, and more importantly, of your family and relationships at home.

If you are disciplined and perform these spiritual development exercises, both your Air Force and your personal family will notice that not only are you more physically and mentally fit, but you are also more spiritually fit. You will also successfully obtain personal achievement, relationship bliss and overall job-related mission accomplishments, whether that job is stabilizing things at home or fighting in the air.