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My Yearly Physical

My annual physical is scheduled for this week. I hate it, as do probably all the other almost 50 million Americans who go through this torment every year. Many years ago, when I was leading a congregation that was raising millions of dollars and I was doing a lot of that work, they decided to send me to the Cooper Clinic for a more thorough “executive physical.” It was on my calendar for months, and I really didn’t think about it until a packet arrived in the mail that was thicker and heavier than the manuscript of the last book I wrote.

It took days to fill out all the forms and to document my entire medical history. The actual physical began early in the morning and lasted all day. I saw a dermatologist, cardiologist, urologist, nutritionist, and a number of other specialists. I was questioned, examined, and probed. They put me on a treadmill, drew what seemed like gallons of blood, took pictures of me inside and out, and soon knew more about me than my mother knew.

When it was finished, they told me I was perfectly healthy, but the entire experience left me feeling more vulnerable than anything that had ever happened to me. Today, in my role as a consultant, I have developed a program for churches like what the Cooper Clinic does for humans. The objective is to determine the health and wellbeing of a congregation to increase their vitality and longevity. The challenge is that, like my own insecurity at facing my mortality, the same is true about churches, businesses, institutions, and relationships.

Kodak, Blackberry, Montgomery Ward, and other companies closed because they were unable to embrace hard truths about themselves soon enough. Empty church buildings and malls, and full divorce courts and cemeteries each bear witness to our capacity for denial and avoidance.

Lent invites us to radical honesty and self-examination. Perhaps my physical this week is a part of that.




Rev. Michael Piazza

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