Spiritual, Psychological, or Both?

If somebody said that two plus two equals five, would you say, “That’s not the right answer, but if you take this pill it’ll change your mind.”? Of course you wouldn’t. Why not? Because their body isn’t the problem. Their thinking is incorrect, which means their mind needs to change.

If somebody had the flu, would you say, “Just imagine yourself feeling better, and your health will improve”? That’s nonsense. Why? Because it’s the body that’s sick, and the body that needs to heal. The mind isn’t directly involved.

Hopefully those two cases were obvious. But sometimes the mind and the body are interrelated. Our thinking is often influenced, or even governed, by chemical reactions. A chemical imbalance (a body problem) can interfere with sound thinking (a mind problem). And we train ourselves to react to certain thoughts in specific ways. For example, we sometimes deal with fear (a mind problem) by taking a deep breath (a body reaction).

Why am I talking about the mind and the body, when the original question was about the mind and the spirit? Because the relationship between mind and body is akin to the relationship between mind and spirit.

People are composed of four distinct but interrelated parts: body, mind, spirit, and soul (aka emotion). Each of these four can have problems of its own, and each of these four can have problems that are interrelated with one or more of the others. And sometimes a problem in one can manifest symptoms in another. We can see all four at work in Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal {to your emotions} … by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV, emphasis and bracketed text added).

So to ask “spiritual, psychological, or both?” is like asking, “If I feel a tingling in my feet, should I see a cardiologist or a podiatrist?” The answer is “either, neither, or both, on a case-by-case basis.” Maybe you have a problem with the nerves and muscles of the feet themselves, or maybe heart disease is inhibiting blood flow to your extremities. Or maybe you’ve just been sitting on your feet on the floor for too long, and need to get up and walk around a bit.

It sounds like the pastor in the article from Leadership Journal initially faced a situation about his spirit. He wasn’t seeing the connectivity with God and the growth in his church that he was accustomed to. He thought that he should expect big results all the time, which is incorrect (in other words, a problem with his mind).  Seeing himself as a failure, he felt bad (a soul problem) and sought to deal with his pain by medicating it with a drug called pornography, and by retreating from the source of his pain (in his case, anemic church life) and into something else (in his case, fantasy sports). These sins created distance between him and God, resulting in passionless prayer for himself and spiritual stagnation in his church. This completed the loop, creating a vicious circle and feeding a downward spiral.

With so much going on, where to begin? My guess (keeping in mind that I am not an expert or a therapist, and that I have neither met nor talked to the pastor mentioned in the article) is that the pastor is burned out. No pastor can maintain vigorous church growth all the time without help.

First, I would look for a way to gently suggest that the work of God in a church is too important and too exhausting to be carried by any one man for very long. Therefore, he should hand off his leadership responsibilities temporarily and take a leave of absence so he can focus on his many issues instead. In my opinion, it would be wise for any church to plan in advance for its pastors to take leaves of absences according to a predetermined schedule.

Then, let’s be honest about the pornography. Does anyone reading the article really believe that this pastor is merely tempted with pornography? In this Internet age, so much content is so readily available that I’d be less shocked to hear a confession of pornographic sin and more shocked to hear of any man in this nation who is so bold as to claim that he remains unaffected by our increasingly pornographic culture. This pastor needs to confess his sin (not just the presence of it, but also the extent of it) to another pastor more senior than he, and submit to that pastor’s determination as to whether counseling is sufficient or therapy is advisable.

Either way, this pastor’s mind and emotions both need healing. Pornography is a huge lie, and his mind fallen under its spell. The lie needs to be exposed and disavowed, and the truth needs to be actively understood so it can take root. Just as healthy grass in a lawn is the best prevention against weeds, in the same way believing the truth about God’s plan for sex is, in my opinion, the best way to dispel the allure of pornography. And what is that plan? Here’s a clue: “… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … In the same way husbands should love their wives … ” (Ephesians 5:25-28, ESV, emphasis added)

My hope and prayer is that this pastor will quickly seek the help he needs. Perhaps, once he properly understands that church growth and depth don’t depend entirely on him, and he confesses and repents of his addictions, then he can eventually be restored to ministry even stronger than before. But if he does not, then his sin, when it is full-grown, will lead to the death of his pastoral ministry and may even cause literal death to himself and/or others (James 1:15).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Pancakes

I bought some multi-grain pancake mix, and last night I decided to cook some of it.  The directions say to add an egg and some oil and milk to 1 cup of dry mix.

Sounds simple, right?  Of course it does.  The problem is that I’m the one in the kitchen.  And when I put on my big white hat, there isn’t anything simple that can’t be made complicated plain that can’t be made nuanced.

What’s in the mixture, anyway?  It’s mostly flour and some other stuff, right?  Of course it is.  So I looked for a recipe online and, sure enough, pancakes from scratch call for 1-1/2 cups of flour plus sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt (but I never cook with salt, so I left that out), and some egg, oil, and milk.

So, OK.  If I combine all the ingredients from the pancake mix instructions, plus all the ingredients from the pancake-from-scratch recipe, that would work, right?  Of course it would.  So it must not be nuanced enough.

The recipe-from-scratch says to use 1-1/2 cups of flour, which translates to 6 portions of 1/4-cup each.  That means, instead of the flour, I should be able to substitute up to six different things at 1/4 cup each, right?  Of course I should.  So I added 1/4 cup of rye flour, 1/4 cup of old-fashioned oatmeal, 1/4 cup of corn meal, and 1/4 cup of instant potato flakes.

I almost thawed some of my frozen rice cubes and frozen lentil cubes for the other two ingredients, but decided against it for now.  Maybe in the next batch.  This time, I left the other 1/2-cup alone and used plain ordinary all-purpose flour.  I would have used egg whites instead of eggs, but I was out and the eggs needed using up anyway.  I would have substituted applesauce for some of the oil, but I couldn’t find the guide that tells me the proportion of how much applesauce to how much oil.  Maybe next time.

I topped off the mixture with some spices.  How much, exactly?  I don’t know, I didn’t measure.  Enough cinnamon to cover the mixture in the mixing bowl.  Then about half that much ginger.  Then about half again as much of some stuff called mace, which supposedly goes well in poundcakes.  I had never heard of it before, but I like spices and this one was on clearance.  I guess most other people hadn’t heard of it, either.  Oh, and some flaxseeds for texture.

The recipe-from-scratch also called for vanilla, but that’s just a flavoring, right?  Of course it is.  So I had considered that optional and skipped over it.  But wait.  What’s that I see on my spice shelf?  Some vanilla flavoring I’d forgotten about.  So I poured in about a teaspoon.  Next to it was imitation rum flavoring.  A little bit of that shouldn’t do incredible harm to such a large batch of batter, right?  Of course it shouldn’t.

So, now for the test.  How well did they actually cook, and how do they taste?

The answer is, remarkably well on both counts.  Cooking the pancakes went without a hitch, partly due to using a new non-slotted spatula (that was one dollar well spent), and partly because the hitch is still attached to my car.

And for taste?  They’re … well, nuanced.  They certainly don’t scream “we’re plain ordinary pancakes”, but you can’t really say they taste like rye, or oats, or potatoes, or rum.  Last night I cooked all the batter (eating one or two pancakes along the way, for quality control).  Today I had two of them for lunch, with a side of rice and lentils, topped with applesauce and some strawberry yogurt.  Very satisfying, if I do say so myself, right?  Of course I do.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment