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Toward Wholeness Blog

The challenge and opportunity of "Wholeness"

When Paul the apostle invited his friends in the ancient Greek town of Thessalonica to wholeness, his desire was that they'd achieve it in every molecule of their being, so he used holistic language: "may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete..." I picture someone deeply content in their inner being, knowing that they're deeply loved by their creator, and uniquely gifted to bless and serve our needy world. What's more, they're in touch with their own story, which of course includes their own stories of loss, brokenness, frustration, and bad choices, as well as (hopefully) some triumphs and memorably joyful moments. Finally, they're at home in their body, not enslaved to food, or sex, or even exercise, but able to enjoy these gifts for what they are. They're even able to inhabit their bodies authentically as they get older, slower, and lose their edge, because they know that their capacity to bless the world isn't contingent on the prevailing idols of youth and beauty.

They are living what most would call "full lives". I've known some folks in this category, and perhaps you have too. One thing all of them have in common is that they weren't born that way, they had to grow into it through wisdom and maturity, and allow the fulness of their life and calling to ripen slowly, through all kinds of seasons.

This sounds very different than many people of faith I've known over the years who are, in spite of their belief in God, weighed down with all kinds of anxieties, and displaying character qualities that are too often vicious and angry, rather than charitable and generous. It appeas that their faith hasn't done enough, frankly, to free them from the cultural traps of individualism, materialism, the pursuit of pleasures and powers, and the attended anxieties and destructive self medicating strategies that are often the path of least resistance. The results of our failures to live wisely in spite of being religious are not pretty.

What's more, our inner pain often spills out into unhealth in the realm of the body. The amazing bodies we've been given are intended by our creator to be sources of joy as we taste our food, breathe our air, feel the warmth of the sun on our faces, and enjoy physical and sexual intimacy as the gifts that they are. Instead, many suffer from a wrong relationship with food, and sex, and creation, with the result that the very things that are intended to bring us joy become sources of great sorrow and pain. The problems multiply, and we find ourselves losing sleep, fighting traffic, over-caffeinated, stressed about money and relationships, and always doing battle with a time famine that seems to leave us little room for restoration, and little hope for moving toward the kind of wholeness Paul wished for his friends.

This failure of faith to make a difference in actual living is one of the big reason people are leaving faith communities (there are a host of other reasons too, beyond the scope of this post, which we'll hope to address over time), and I don't blame them. A faith that only affects your eternal destiny or imposes some sort of strict (and often culturally determined) moral order on you without leading you to a real path of wholeness feels like little more than a burden.

On the other hand, we're presently living in a culture that isn't working well at all. We're understandably angry and cynical toward people in power, appalled at the lack of civility in the public square, and aware that the tribalism, isolation, and polarization that's all around us isn't working.

The way forward, I believe, isn't to further jettison the deep spiritual truths that call us to our higher selves. Rather, our need is to allow those truths to saturate us completely. Having transformed our spiritual identity, they must be allowed to do deep soul work, redeeming our brokenness and filling us with compassion, and continue outward so that they affect our food choices, and our relationship with our bodies and sexuality. We shouldn't stop there either. At our best, this same life giving spirit will continue to spiral outward, healing broken family systems, and empowering us to work for the common good as we love neighbors, break down social divides, and even find ways to love enemies. All of this will be infused with creativity, community, interdependency, and the kind of deep satisfaction that only comes when we discover, by experience, that it is indeed, "better to give than to receive".

Catching a vision for this wholeness, and providing you with resources to pursue this wholeness, is what we're all about here. Our world doesn't need more instruction on how to get rich, or even how to get religious. We need tools to guide us toward wholeness. And that's what we'll be doing here on this website. I look forward to you joining us on the journey so that together we may live well: spirit, soul, and body.

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