Being in the hospital is not fun. The nursing staff here at U of Iowa Hospital is terrific, and they are very easy to get along with, but it’s still not fun. In a bed most of the day, hooked up to IV’s, limited movement and routines that don’t always run exactly on schedule. One thing I learn quick is that I am not in control. But one thing is set to a pretty structured routine, and that’s measuring what they call vitals.
Every four hours, give or take a half hour, they come in and measure four things. Temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen level. These critical components of our body make-up are then tracked through the day to show trends and see if anything is going astray. All three of them are essential to good health, and can indicate a problem if not within the proper range.
Temperature fluctuations can indicate a viral or bacterial infection that is causing the body to fight off that infection, increasing the bodies temperature as it fights of infection. Fever is not a bad thing – it’s a warning sign. When I get fever I usually can’t function very well. I get weak, dizzy and don’t want to move much. It slows me down so my body can fight.
Blood pressure is something I don’t completely know how to explain except to say that it should fall within a particular range of numbers, and that shows that your blood is flowing at a good rate and your heart is not having to work too hard. There is a top number and a bottom number. Wikipedia explains it this way:
The top number is your systolic blood pressure. (The highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes the blood round your body.) The bottom one is your diastoleic blood pressure. (The lowest pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.)
If these numbers get out of the acceptable range, it can spell big trouble. So they monitor these real closely.
Heart rate is next. Of course, this is pretty self-explanatory. If the heart is running too fast or slow, it is cause for alarm. A steady rhythm is the best and the rate is usually pretty steady as well. The last measurement is oxygen. This shows if the blood is delivering enough oxygen to the rest of the body. That is the function of the red blood cells, and is the source for our energy to our body. If oxygen levels go too far down, our energy goes down, and they know the red cells are not doing their job.
I was thinking about these vital signs last night, and took it a step further. What about our spiritual vital signs? Are there similar things we can measure on an ongoing basis that would help us monitor how alive we are in our faith? I think there are, and here is what I was impressed to share with you.
Our temperature is our witness. It is more obvious than anything else to the outside world. If someone has a fever, you can usually tell. And if my witness for Christ is suffering, people can usually tell. My witness should be alive and vibrant, always evident in everything I say and do. If I am a grump today, that is not a good witness. If I am gossiping, putting down, insulting, or being bitter, it is not a good witness, and my spiritual temperature is off. On the other hand, if I am gentle, kind, considerate, loving and compassionate, other see me as healthy, with a good temperature. How often do you check your spiritual temperature?
Blood pressure to me is my prayer life. The top number is in my prayers for others – intercessory prayer, and the bottom number is prayers for myself. God puts much more stock in our intercessory prayers than our own, I believe. We are called to pray for one another, lift one another up, call down blessings from heaven for our brothers and sisters. But we also have to pray that we stay strong and vibrant and not afraid to do what God calls us to do. Both are critical for the church to survive and for me to have a strong relationship with the father. This is an area where I admittedly falter the most. My prayer life is not where I want it to be, and II need to work on that.
The heart rate is my praise. Am I praising God in every situation, or do I get down when the slightest thing comes against me. I know people of God who let a hangnail get them in the dumps! We should be praising Him every second of every day for all he has done for us, even if I’m lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to IV’s, fighting off cancer. Nothing should ever stop, or even slow down our praise. Praise should emit from our lips like breath does from our lungs. And not because of what God has done, but just because He is worthy.
Last is the oxygen, and this is our devotional time. Time spent alone with God, taking in His word, listening for His voice. Not a time of praise or prayer, it is set apart time where we just seek God. Early mornings are my favorite time for this. I admit I do not get into the word enough, but I commune with Him and intervals throughout the day, just to bask in His presence. It is then He speaks to me, and I hear His voice.
How do your spiritual vital signs shape up. I encourage you to watch these things in your life, and learn to grow in them. It will bless you.