What Is Health for?

Hi everyone,

I’m Calvin. This post is supposed to be an introduction of sorts, so I’ll start with some stuff about me. I’m tall, I’m half-indian, I’m awful at dancing, I’m a recovering premed, I’m a southerner at heart, and I’m currently siting at my kitchen table eating carrots. Basically, I’m a lot of stuff. The most important thing about me, though, is that I’m trying to follow Jesus, even if I’m pretty bad at it.

But for a more serious introduction, I’m the 4th of 5 kids in a family of all homeschooled children. I graduated from Princeton in 2015 with a degree in Classics, and I now live in inner city Chicago, working at a low-income health center (the same one Daniel used to work at.) I’m also trying to go to medical school.

I love the places where faith and medicine interact. As I’ve spent 4 years preparing for med school, I’ve seen more and more ways that medicine is broken. As I’ve grown in my faith though, I’ve seen so many ways in which Christ is the perfect answer to that brokenness. There are other times when I get frustrated because I don’t see how the problems can be fixed. But then I remember that Jesus is returning and that we’ll eventually have a neverending party with the king of all glory. That makes me feel a lot better. There are a couple other topics you may hear me write about: poverty, education, mental health, and sexual assault are all things I care deeply about.

One of the main reasons I’m writing for this blog is that I love to ask why. I want to know why we do things a certain way, why we say what we say, and especially, why we want what we want.

In fact, while I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, writing this blog post and eating my baby carrots, I have a sinus infection. I find that pretty annoying. My ears have a constant crackling noise like someone is unwrapping a twinkie right next to them, my head feels like someone is blowing up a balloon inside it, and my teeth feel like someone is beating them from behind with one of those carrots. As I’m sure you understand, I want to get better. I want to be healthy!

But, because I can’t stop myself from asking questions, a little voice in the back of my head says to me “Why do you want to be healthy? What is health even for?” Shoot. That one made me think. But I have what I think is a pretty good answer: I want to be healthy because then I don’t have to experience this pain and discomfort which kind of sucks.

Then God puts a passage of scripture in my mind to remind me of my own selfishness.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-4

God tells me to rejoice in my suffering, not to lie here moaning about my pain and wishing it would end. God may use my suffering to build my character. Maybe he’ll use my illness to bring me in contact with a doctor who could be opened to Christ by my love for faith and medicine. Who knows? But here I am, shortsightedly wishing that my teeth didn’t hurt.

All the more, while God may use my suffering for good, I’m not sitting here thinking of how I could use my health for him. I’m not sitting here saying “God make me better so that I can serve you better.” I’m allowing health to become and end, rather than God himself. That my friends, is called the idolatry of health. It’s so easy to fall into, as my overly-pressurized sinus passages will attest to.

In any case, I hope this post made you think a little bit, laugh a little bit, or better yet ask God how he can use your health or lack of health.

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not enough…

Hi! My name is Victor and this is my first GWBlog post, in which I will be briefly introducing myself and my interests.

I recently graduated from Princeton as a biology major and am currently in the midst of the medical school application process. Like a young middle-school boy, I easily get distracted by whatever is going on around me and have a wide variety of interests, whether travelling, trying new foods, or spending time outdoors.

For me, seeing the world through the lens of the gospel has meant exploring and considering how the gospel appears in the little things in my life. Maybe it’s because committing to delving too far into a single topic sometimes makes my head hurt, but I like thinking about a wide range of topics relating to my life and examining how the given situation in my life is touched by and changes because of the gospel. I am very interested in trying to find ways that my daily experiences relate to my faith walk.

For example, I truly believe that it was not simply through hard work and luck that I recently finished my medical school secondary applications in a timely manner. For the past three weeks, while being on a mission trip in Taiwan, I was writing tens of essays and consequently got very little sleep on most days. It was definitely through God’s grace that I had so much energy during these two weeks. One of the students I was working with commented that their first impression of me was that I always had so much energy. Maybe the milk tea in Taiwan was extra caffeinated, or the kids were just that fun. But regardless, I believe that it was truly God’s grace that I had the energy that I did given how little I was sleeping.

Recently something that has been pressing on my heart, especially as I tried to explain to medical schools (in my applications) why they would want me as a future student, is that I can never be enough.

I am constantly reminded about how I am not enough. Not smart enough, not good-looking enough, not [fill in any positive adjective] enough… Being on the swim team at Princeton, I was constantly reminded of how I wasn’t fast enough, not strong enough, etc. With friends, I’m not nice enough, not patient enough, not understanding enough. As I worked on my medical school applications, I realized that my grades could be higher, I could have published some papers, I could be a more eloquent writer, I could be more insightful and have a more interesting life. As a Christian I wonder why I still get so nervous and anxious in the face of adversity even though I believe in God. The list goes on…

But I am encouraged that God loves me for who I am and that if my identity is rooted in Christ, I am enough because my identity is rooted in something far greater than me. Christ never changes and thus if my identity is rooted in Him, I have nothing to fear. Of course, this is much easier to have as head knowledge than to actually believe wholeheartedly and live out.

I was recently very encouraged by this verse:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
-1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Despite our weaknesses, God makes us enough.

On a somewhat related note, I think in our quest to try to be enough, we also try to change ourselves to become something other than what has God has created us to be. We try to conform ourselves to being happier, funnier, more outgoing, smarter, etc. (or maybe we try to adjust our personas in the other direction). But recently I was encouraged as I watched Pixar’s Inside Out (a film about how our emotions work inside our heads…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kArxASiw3Y). For some brief background, Joy (the yellow colored “emotion” character) and Sadness (the blue colored “emotion” character) are two of the emotions that inhabit the mind of the main character Riley (the middle-school girl in the trailer). I was touched as I watched the film and realized, with Joy, why Sadness was a critical component of the main character Riley’s mind. Sadness was just different, not better or worse than Joy, and I think so often we are tempted to think of ourselves as not enough because we focus on who we are compared to others. But really we’re just different from those around us, not necessarily better or worse. I believe that God has created us to be enough with a very unique, important role in His plan and that we just need to find out what that role is.

I’d really encourage you to dig deep and look at where the foundation of your identity lies. Can you say it’s wholly based in Christ? Ask the hard questions. What’s the worst that can happen because you aren’t enough in this way or that way? Will God still be there with you even if you utterly fail? Like it will be for you I’m sure, I am only slowly understanding what it means to have my identity fully rooted in Christ.

As you can see, my thoughts sometimes wander as I try to incorporate too many different parts of my life into a single post. Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thinking about transitions

My name is Jojo and this is my first post to the GWBlog. Here I’d like to introduce myself and my areas of interest.

I am currently in transition right now: I was previously a math student at Princeton and I hope to be a med student in the future. We already have two resident mathematics academicians [1, 2] and three resident medical experts [3, 4, 5] on the blog, so as to not saturate this blog with lower quality content about maths and medicine, for now I will be blogging about transitions.

We usually say we are in transition when we are between two jobs, changing careers, or waiting for our next big “life stage” to begin. We often think of transitioning as the time we spend before the beginning of a state worth existing in. In my limited experience, this mindset tends to shift my life’s narrative from one that is Gospel-centered and driven by the good news to one more concerned about reaching the next milestone. Although all the eschatological hopes of the Old Testament and our personal yearning have been fulfilled in Christ and he is coming back to establish his visible reign, I become consumed with getting to the next destination. I am tempted to reduce life into several big goals, possibly subdividing these goals along the way: get into X college, land Y internship, get Z job. The change in thinking leads to restlessness that I’m not making progress towards the next goal. In college, the flags for this change in mentality were when I realized I was living problem set to problem set, or completing a term and feeling empty that I had arrived. I spent my energies anticipating completion or certain dates, but it failed to satisfy.

When I lose sight of the true destination worth orienting my life around, my sinful tendencies also start to reveal themselves. Slowly, I begin to focus more on the goals themselves and I assume an implicit purpose that my life should be optimized to reach these goals. I’ve noticed that I seem to undergo a type of transformation coined by sociologists P. J. DiMaggio and W. Powell as institutional isomorphism*. These sociologists noticed that there is a collective rationality that similar types of organizations share that makes them converge. They hypothesized that competing organizations tend to converge because they model themselves on more successful rivals, common consultants move between the organizations, and they must compete under the same laws.

Similarly, I tend to imitate successful individuals striving for similar goals, receive advice from the same counselors about these goals, and experience the same formative processes (classes, standardized testing, etc.) more than I imitate Christ, submit myself to his Word, and practice spiritual disciplines. I am trying to be careful not to dichotomize imitating good examples and imitating Christ; I just think we should be wary of normative pressures diminishing the way in which the uniqueness and surprising nature of the Christ-event shapes our lives. My own sinful tendency is to imitate those who aren’t imitating Christ (1 Cor 11:1) and my motivations start to shift towards selfish ambition, comfort, and prestige.

I’d like to briefly argue that life is all about transitioning and that it should be celebrated. Indeed, since the moment of our regeneration, we have become new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), crucified (Gal. 2:20) and raised with Christ (Col. 3:1-3), but at the same time we are not yet perfected to our resurrection bodies:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep,but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53)

God saw it fit that we were not immediately transformed at the moment of our conversion. Instead, we are tasked with the job of partnering with the Holy Spirit in our sanctification until that day. This tension is probably familiar to many readers of this blog as the “already, but not yet.” As good as our resurrection bodies may be, God’s plan for humanity is not an instant transformation but a gradual one. Sanctification is in fact the greatest transition we will make in our life and it is worth striving for.

I’d like to point out something I find interesting about New Testament encouragements: we are often spurred on to be more or do more of an ongoing action – be more loving, take up our crosses, persevere – rather than called to accomplish some task or reach a goal, since the greatest “task” has already been accomplished! Life does not begin at the next milestone, it began for us 2000 years ago; let us then press onward toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Php. 3:12-16).

Here are some questions maybe worth using for reflection:

  • Am I orienting my life around accomplishing certain goals more than becoming a type of person?
  • What are the tendencies of people who work in my major/profession or those who strive for the same goals? Similarly, how have I changed the more I’ve progressed towards these goals?
  • How do I feel after I reach the big goals or are hindered from achieving them?

*I would like to cite more things for you, but I don’t have access to a nice library right now.