Adam Rick at commencement

Spiritual Health: Q&A with College Chaplain Adam Rick and Director of Health Services Brock Lutz

Written by Sara Garfinkle

At Hillsdale College we learn to be well-rounded individuals. We learn liberally about the western heritage, great books, sciences, philosophy, theology, and physical health, to name just a few of the discrete subjects integrated into Hillsdale’s core curriculum. While we study theology and physical health, the two subjects are harmonized in out-of-class seminars, panels, and training sessions. I interviewed College Chaplain Adam Rick and Director of Health Services Brock Lutz to share their perspectives on spiritual health, its importance, and its emphasis in our campus culture.

1. What is spiritual health and how is it integrated into overall health?

Rick: Spiritual health is the right integration and proportionality of all aspects of our health with each other and with ultimate reality. In other words, a spiritually healthy person is on the inside what they present themselves to be on the outside: their yes is yes and their no is no; their actions align with their principles; who people think they are aligns with who they think they are; who they are in private corresponds to who they are in public; their most important relationships tend to build them up rather than tear them down. And “spiritual” health comes when all of these things together, which touch on our social, mental, emotional, behavioral, and vocational well-being, are themselves properly aligned with ultimate and objectively true things: God, his creation, and his ways with his creation. This kind of ultimate alignment will necessarily produce a right proportionality in the various aspects of our being, such that our loves and desires and priorities are rightly aligned. Spiritual health, in short, is what we mean by “integrity,” the whole person properly integrated with itself, with others, and with God.

Lutz: I’m not sure a person can be spiritually healthy without it being connected to all the other areas—emotions, thoughts/perspective, physical life, relationships, behaviors, and choices. Adam [Rick] often points out that integrity and integrated are the same Latin roots; thus, the integrity we often discuss around Hillsdale reflects a person whose emotions and behavior and spiritual life are all in communication and informing and influencing one another.

2. Why is spiritual health important?

Rick: Based on the above definition, spiritual health’s importance flows pretty naturally. If spiritual health is right—integration with one’s self, with others, and with God—then there can be no higher definition of human well being and flourishing. To be spiritually healthy is to be a fulfilled and contented person, no matter the external circumstances. This last bit is crucial, because a person can be spiritually healthy and yet face all kinds of hardship in the world. But their wholeness will enable them to navigate trial effectively and to persevere. There can be no better posture to confront the challenges of life in this world.

Lutz: Spiritual health is important because it involves the most important questions: how do we live, why do we live, what comes next in this life? And it is the glue that holds together all the other areas.

3. What are concrete ways students care for their spiritual health?

Rick: Don’t let the ultimate things crowd out the many crises of the immediate. Tend to your soul. Prioritize its health as of first importance. Ultimately, you cannot sustain academic excellence, social usefulness, emotional stability, or vocational vitality if your soul has been left to continually rot. The demands of God are rarely the most pressing thing especially on our fast-paced and ambitious campus—he is a cosmic gentleman who always invites patiently rather than pushes manipulatively—and so it’s easy to ignore them because other things are more pressing. But earthly things are by definition fleeting, however important they may be, and our true identities are rooted in the eternal. We must not forget this fact. Practicing mindfulness to it will necessarily compel us to prioritize what Christian tradition has called “the ordinary means of grace:” Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and corporate worship. Nothing spectacular is needed, just ordinary, daily faithfulness.

4. What opportunities does Hillsdale provide for students to care for, improve, and grow their spiritual health?

Lutz: The College offers one-on-one counseling/spiritual formation with Adam Rick or counselors at the health center (and many other staff/faculty on campus). There is an abundance of campus faith groups and a wide variety of local churches. Students often walk to services together or carpool. In February there is a weekend spiritual retreat planned for male students. Students have the opportunity to go to a monastery once per semester.

Rick: There are vibrant and active spiritual life groups from all across the Judeo-Christian spectrum on this campus. There are vast opportunities, through these communities, for corporate prayer, fellowship, and study. My office additionally provides spiritual direction and various opportunities for rest and worship, such as Soul Care Retreats to a local monastery once each semester, a service of prayer and healing for the wounded and grieved in the fall, and an Ash Wednesday service in the spring. Plus there are numerous local churches which are eager to plug in and support our students. My office can provide an official list of those churches as well, for any who ask. Finally, there are myriad folks in the faculty and staff of this college who would relish the opportunity to spiritually mentor students, if they were asked to do so. Don’t forget to seek out and lean on the wisdom of experience in years!

Sara GarfinkleSara Garfinkle, ’20, studies Rhetoric, Public Address, and Hebrew. She plans to be a speechwriter and teacher after graduation. Until then, you can find her baking bread, watching science fiction shows, going on adventures with her Pi Phi sisters, and pranking her younger brother Ben.

Published in November 2019