Is wholeness something we have, like a possession? Carefully gathered and held on to? Or is it something that we notice when it is present, but isn’t necessarily something we can create or intentionally bring into being? This is just one of the many questions we’re invited into as we travel the terrain of wholeness this month. Wholeness can be surprisingly difficult to define – that’s what makes it a good topic for spiritual exploration! Yet this slipperiness can also raise our hackles a bit. If wholeness is something good, if it’s a desired character trait, some of us would like nothing more than to define it, affirm that we posses it, and move on.
What’s also true is that engaging the topic of wholeness can lift up and point out the places in our lives where we don’t experience wholeness and wish that we did. Whether from the loss of a loved one, work that isn’t fulfilling, the emptiness of an ended or absent relationship, or a sense of spiritual or existential emptiness, when we turn our hearts toward wholeness we can’t help but notice the places where we don’t feel whole. So, as we move into this theme, let’s remember to be gentle with ourselves and with each other.
Whether we have a sense of wholeness or not, I can’t help but remember a line attributed to Thomas Merton which Parker Palmer riffed on in titling one of his books “A Hidden Wholeness.” Merton said “there is in all things. . . a hidden wholeness.” Palmer’s book delves deep into the implications of Merton’s statement by encouraging us to seek an alignment and integrity between our inner and outer lives so that we might experience the wholeness hidden within. Importantly, at least for me, Palmer shares his struggles with deep depression and the ways in which he’s worked with and through depression to find a wholeness not in what we do or attain, but simply in who we are, just as we are. For Parker, at least part of wholeness comes from knowing and accepting who we truly are. In a way, it is our imperfections and how we work with them that let the light shine through.
Who we are, just as we are – our best and shiniest qualities right alongside the things we’d prefer to hide. Sometimes, it can be hard to imagine that there’s wholeness in that. It isn’t that we’re bad people, so much as it is that we may suspect that there are ways in which we could be better people. Palmer’s assertion of worth, of wholeness, solely by virtue of existence is a sentiment deep in the heart of many of our religious traditions, and it’s a sentiment that we strive to embody and make real at church. However your week was, whatever great virtues you enacted, whatever grievous errors you made, at church, we see and hold you in your wholeness, even if and when you’re not feeling it for yourself. This holding wholeness for each other is what we do as a community, and this is one of the things it means to be church.
Whoever you are. Just as you are. Feeling whole, feeling broken, feeling somewhere in-between. However it is that you find yourself, we hope you find yourself at church, and share with us all a bit of your journey with wholeness.