In Joshua Tree National Park, towards the end of the Hidden Valley Trail, is a plaque with this poem:
Integrity is wholeness…
The wholeness of life and things,
The divine beauty of the universe.
Love that, not man apart from that.
– Robinson Jeffers
These beautiful lines exemplify the third Stage of Living: our Focus, our purpose. Earlier I described our life Focus as how we treat ourselves, others, and all of creation.
The Focus of progressive Christianity is a life, described by Jesus, as always moving toward wholeness—the deep well-being of body, mind, and spirit.
Of course, this is possible only if the environment—the health of our planet—is also a primary concern. I see this as horizontal spirituality—focusing on ourselves, our neighbors, and the whole of creation in ever expanding circles of influence.
It’s a lifestyle of mutual caring. We become more whole as we lift others to more satisfying wholeness. In that caring, we enjoy aliveness!
A tagline for our progressive focus might be:
CREATED IN ONENESS WITH ALL THAT IS,
WE LIVE TO ENJOY AND BUILD WHOLENESS FOR ALL.
Because I use the term so often, my brother challenged me to define “wholeness,” as it may not be clear to everyone. I can’t do that concisely. [Well, as you’ve already seen, I can’t write anything concisely.] Within some minimal boundaries, becoming whole is probably a different experience for everyone.
Wholeness is joyfully resonating with the entire universe…the Ultimate Reality of creation—God. That experience is fostered by a sense of awe and an expanded view of who we are and how we’re interrelated and interdependent with everyone and everything. Wholeness is both a condition we enjoy and the actions we live. Progressively, our growing sense of wholeness matures us into a fuller humanity, more capable of serving ourselves in a calming and affirming way. Our more capable self can then connect with the rest of creation in drawing others to wholeness and sustaining the environment.
Synonyms for Wholeness
Whole has the same root as holy and means “uninjured, sound, healthy, entire, complete.” We realize how holy and sacred our life and the lives of others are when we see people and the world in the healthiest manner of equality.
Eastern spirituality often uses the term being: living in the present moment, not worrying about mistakes in the past, nor how things will turn out in the future.
Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace and wholeness and well-being.
Reconciliation is moving relationships from brokenness to wholeness.
Lutheran pastor, Liv Larson, points out that Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” is usually misunderstood. The Greek word “telos” doesn’t mean perfect in our present-day connotation, but rather ending, or completeness, whole, and mature. For her, that passage “evokes an integrity of personhood” that is akin to wholeness. This also suggests that we don’t need to seek perfection, we merely need to recognize our potential for becoming whole.
Progressive pastor and author, Roger Wolsey, reminds us that in Hebrew, salvation means healing, wholeness, and well-being. Jesus also referred to this state of being as experiencing “abundant or eternal life” and living in “the kingdom of God.”
Cynthia Bourgeault of the Center for Contemplation and Action clarifies the Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matt 5:8) She says that “in wisdom teaching, purity means singleness, and the proper translation of this Beatitude is really, “Blessed are those whose heart is a unified whole.” Jesus was asking us to have a heart of wholeness.
Sister Joan Chittister gives beautiful explanations of the Ten Commandments, not as narrow “rules” but as guidelines for life. She concludes, “In the commandments we learn how to become holy, healthy, wholesome human beings.”
Bishop Spong writes, “The sign of wholeness is not found in any particular religious formulation, but is an expression of a deeper level of self-acceptance, one that expresses itself in the ability to give yourself away in love to another.”
What limits Wholeness?
I see only a couple of criteria that might constrict our freedom. The first is: Do no harm. If one’s actions impinge on someone’s wholeness, that contributes to their brokenness and degradation of their being.
Second: See everyone as your equal sojourner. That doesn’t mean you have to like their behaviors or beliefs, but to not assume they are equally deserving of wholeness is to diminish their full humanity.
Do points one and two sound familiar? You might recognize the Golden Rule in them.
Third, “Do no harm” also applies to our stewardship of everything in the Universe. Any degradation of the environment is contrary to living in harmony with creation.
Beyond those points, we’re free to enjoy the delightful experience of this life in an infinite variety of ways. We each have unique means of contributing to the world. We also have various “happy-triggers” that provide adrenaline rushes. It may be music for one person, or race-car driving, or raising a family. You can flood your mind with examples that fit you and others.
So, you see, I can’t really define wholeness since it will mean something different for each person. But I believe you will know it when you tingle with the aliveness of sensing you are part of something bigger and more meaningfully deeper. When you realize the impact you have on others and their effect on you. When you feel part of a universal community.
In summary, wholeness is leading a meaningful life of enjoying and building up ourselves, others, and creation. And, it’s the very peaks and valleys, twists and turns of life that make this path so interesting, so fulfilling…so wholly alive!
______________________ October 9, 2018