Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wholeness Part 2

Before I continue with the line of thought I brought up yesterday, it might be helpful if I go back and explain a little more about this idea of "wholeness" and how it's become such a big thing for me. I guess I can trace its origin back to Keith and some questions he brought up back when we were dating. He was the first one to point out our reliance on these divisions we set up between body, soul, spirit, heart, mind, etc... He was the first one to question where they come from, what evidence we have for being so insistent on them. My first question, once I got my mind wrapped around the concept was, what's a better way? What does the alternative look like?

We started sorting through this idea of division, of what parts make up a person, a life, and found surprising things. Like the fact that the Hebrews, the Israelites of the Bible didn't even have words for some of the concepts, for things like body, soul, spirit as completely separated and unconnected entities. That they didn't view our body as nothing more than an external, disposable shell. We discovered that the Greeks, especially Plato, are largely responsible for introducing this concept into society, and that by the time the New Testament was written, the society of both the Greeks and the Jews was overwhelmingly infected with it. So it makes sense that the New Testament writers would utilize these terms when writing about our relations to ourselves, to others and to God. But maybe they weren't meant in the same way that society took them. And they almost certainly weren't meant in the way we take them now.

To make a long and possibly uninteresting process a little shorter, here's what I feel I can conclude based on this journey. We are a whole, a unity, one entire, complex being that can't be split and shattered into completely separable parts. There are no parts of us that can be discarded, no pieces that are any more, or any less, important than any others. No parts that are greater, or even equal to, the whole. And it can be damaging to the whole when we start trying to carve away any of it's parts. The whole suffers when we try to subjugate some parts to others, when we insist that the soul is more important than the body, or that we can only think and reason with our minds, or that our hearts are entirely pure, or entirely corrupted. We lose something, we diminish, when we start to fragment ourselves, when we lose sight of our wholeness, when we are willing to settle for being anything less than full and complete.

That's not to say that we should eradicate the terminology. I'm not going to quit referring to gut-feelings, or saying that someone has the sweetest heart I've ever known, or that my soul sings with joy about something. I just think it's really important that we recognize that kind of language for what it is: metaphor. It's a way of speaking about different things we feel, different ways we experience the world, and it's a useful way of speaking. But it doesn't describe, much less prescribe, a concrete reality.

And with that, there is no spiritual reality that is bigger or more important than our physical reality. It's all one complete reality, made up of things seen and things unseen. Our pastor said something about it in church this morning. We were studying Luke, chapter 13, where Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath. His action struck against three of the society's prescribed divisions. The physical vs. spiritual (physical healing on the Sabbath wasn't okay because that was only a "spiritual" day), men vs. women (women weren't to be associated with in public below of their low stature), haves vs. have-nots (a person of privilege wouldn't stoop to socialize with someone who was crippled and diseased). These lines that we draw. These boundaries and divisions we insist on.

Yet Jesus breaks these boundaries in the story, just as he broke such boundaries his entire ministry. He rejected the human divisions, the walls we set up between ourselves and others, the walls we set up to keep parts of ourselves sequestered or contained. He rejected them, he broke them down, in favor of healing and unity for all of us and with all of us. So that we could be complete. So that we could be whole. And I know I speak for both Keith and myself when I say, this is the most important thing we want to do with our lives: to make whole people. And to make people whole.

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