Self-Understanding

The fifth statement is this:

(5) a statement of self-understanding which reflects the inquirer’s personal and cultural background and includes a concern for maintaining spiritual, physical, and mental health;

I am a white male born in the second half of the 20th century in the United States. I am part of the most privileged ethnicity and the most privileged gender in the most privileged society ever to exist on the face of the Earth. I came into the world already under a great deal of judgment, and for many years I imbibed this privilege unconsciously and unconscientiously, unthinkingly assuming that it was right and appropriate, and at my most regrettable, earned and deserved.

For someone in this position, the encounter with God is a forceful shock, because throughout scripture God takes the side of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the lonely, and the powerless. God’s judgment is against any idolatrous power, including economic and political power. In my case, this encounter has (too slowly) opened my eyes to my own privilege, and how it is dependent on abject poverty in other parts of the world to sustain. One main struggle in my life, I believe, will be with this privilege and with the terrible injustices which make it possible.

I have always had trouble with physical health. Spinal problems and asthma have made sports a low priority for most of my life, and a deep-seated love of rich food and lazy evenings has sealed the deal, so to speak. I exercise sporadically, and am trying to change that, particularly in a sessile lifestyle like that of the student (and church intern). At least I can say that I am aware of the problems, and am making attempts to slowly alter my lifestyle to account for them.

My mental has also been a struggle for a my entire life. I have always struggled with depression, which has ranged from relatively mild to almost incapacitating. During two years in college I went on antidepressants, went to counseling regularly, took up spiritual practices, and put a lot of effort into changing my cognitive patterns and behaviors that were exacerbating the problem. Since I have gone off of antidepressants and do not go to counseling on a regular basis. The result was not freedom from depression but a few more tools to deal with it. I am hopeful that this sea-change toward greater mental health will continue as long as I persist.

In relation to how I began this statement, I believe my spiritual health is tied up in my life in a worshipping Christian community and my commitment to social justice, to using my privilege and my gifts in service of other people and the created world in general. I feel healthiest when I serve others, when I know that I am contributing to someone else’s life in a concrete way. I feel aligned with God’s purpose when my witness to my faith is explicitly lived out in my behavior and decisions in the world

2 thoughts on “Self-Understanding

  1. in the second to last paragraph, first sentence, you left out the word “health” after “mental”.On these statements we were very similar to each other. I imagine your committee might have a similar response to mine “icky he’s getting liberal all over me…”

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  2. well, my committee is a little more liberal than yours – in the open-minded sense at least if not the political sense. my liaison is an ex-Marxist after all 🙂thanks for the note, i’ll fix that in my final

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