During Lent, small groups at West Lawn UMC are studying The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren. Each Wednesday during Lent I will publish a post that coincides with the group discussion guide for The Daniel Plan. If you’d like to join a small group at West Lawn UMC, please contact the church office.

pictured: me (left) Santa (right)

In a matter of a few years I had gained 65 pounds. Before my injury, I was hovering around 205 pounds, intentionally keeping fit for my job as a police officer. Once my back blew out, my active lifestyle immediately transitioned to being sedentary… aka being a couch potato. As time continued, my waistline expanded. Were the medications causing weight gain? Was the dryer shrinking my clothes? No and no. Less movement, combined with poor eating habits, equated to packing on the pounds. The culprit wasn’t the meds nor the dyer, it was me.

Pastor Rick Warren in The Daniel Plan says that we typically reject, neglect, perfect, or protect our bodies. While I did yo-yo diet throughout those years and lost some weight only to be gained back later, there was a significant period that I completely neglected my body. I ate chili dogs and French fries while on duty, but then lifted weights and/or jogged after shift. I continued to eat chili dogs… and cheesesteaks… and potato chips… and pizza… and every fatty food imaginable after my injury, but didn’t lift weights or run. Soon enough I was on blood pressure medicine and, shortly thereafter, had my gall bladder removed – both as a result of my poor diet (too much salt and fat).

Not only did exercise cease to exist in my daily routine, but so did my movement in general. In hindsight, I contribute some of the downward spiral of my health as being psychosomatic – that is to say that while I did have a very serious injury that certainly placed limitations on my life, it probably wasn’t to the degree that I allowed it to rule my life. Instead of focusing on the positive, I dwelled on the negative. I only heard what the doctor said I “couldn’t do” instead of what I could do. Fixating on what I had to give up and what I was missing out on created a lot of angst and stress. I felt as if my body had failed me, and in a sense, I was giving up on my body. While I was certainly depressed during this period of my life, I found purpose with God and the Church.

Ultimately, the rollercoaster of life that I was riding with God found me completing seminary and being appointed as a pastor. Once I retired from the police department, I pursued my calling to ordination in The United Methodist Church. Part of the ordination process is to complete – and pass – a physical examination by a doctor. I was initially resistant to an employer knowing my health information, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“You will have a stroke or a heart attack within 10 years,” the doctor said to me. “Your cholesterol is high, your triglycerides are high, your bad cholesterol – the LDL – is too high. When was the last time you at a piece of fish? Your good cholesterol – the HDL – is nonexistent.”

“You said I ‘will have a stroke or heart attack within 10 years,’ did you mean to say that my chances are good that that would happen?”

“Considering your family history of heart disease, you’re clinically obese, and with all of your lipid levels being way too high for your age, you’re on the path to having a stroke or heart attack within 10 years.”

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. – Psalm 23:4a (NKJV)

I left the doctor’s office that December of 2018, with my new prescription for a statin, feeling horrible about myself. At this point in my life it was hard to imagine feeling more self-pity than previously experienced, but this was a new low. That injury I sustained on duty not only ended my career as a police officer but it also altered my personal life and now my health in areas other than my back. I felt like I was in that “valley of the shadow of death” that David was talking about. In this valley because of circumstance and because of my neglect.

Now what? Where do I go from here? How do I get out of this valley?

Come back next week and find out…