Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wholeness / Holiness

A thought on the nature of Wholeness (or Holiness)...
It doesn't mean being completely independent in the way we usually think of that term - not needing anyone or anything else. In fact, I would suggest that Wholeness involves a balanced connection with others; Aspects of ourselves that are outside of ourselves; To be "hole-y", having empty places in our being that can only be filled by something or someone outside of ourselves. To know ourselves is to know where our empty places are; it is to see where and how others fit into our being. Think of anyone in your life whom you love deeply - can you imagine your life being whole or complete without them? Without your son or daughter? Without your parents? Without your husband or wife? Without your brother or sister? When someone we love leaves us, or dies, is not the most universal feeling one of emptiness? A part of ourselves is no longer there, and it is only right that we should feel that hollow place, and also right to say that no one will ever be able to fill that space in us again. No other could ever take the place of a loved one lost. (This is one of the reasons why the story of Job bothers me so much)

I recently heard someone say something along these lines: "I only need God, even if everyone else leaves me. My relationship with God is all that really matters". This is, in my opinion, unbalanced and unbiblical. To reject not only the centrality of the church in the Christian experience, but to deny God's own claim in Genesis that "it is not good for man to be alone". I would also suggest that if one's relationship with others is non-existent, then one's relationship with God probably isn't much better (Desert Fathers notwithstanding - But even the religious solitary will say that they do not live the life of solitude to get away from people, but rather in order to better serve and love others and the church in their unique calling).

Love involves not only giving, but receiving. Only in both is there whole love. To give and not need to receive is another form of selfishness.

To quote U2, there is a "God-shaped hole" in us that can only be filled spiritually, by God. And similarly, there is an empty place in us that can only be filled by those we love & who love us. Contrary to what some may say or claim, God does not fill that void, only our loved ones can. God was not satisfied just to have a relationship with Adam, God insisted that Adam also have a relationship with Eve, as well as insisting they have children. We may mean well when we advise others in their grief and loss to turn to God and lean on him for strength and comfort, but let's be careful that we don't imply that he will fill that emptiness inside of them. That is a place that will always be there. Part of our fallen state is living with emptiness, hoping in a day when God will restore all things.

It is an easy temptation to go from needing others and God to fill those proper places in us, to trying to get them to fit into empty places they are not and were never meant to fill. Receiving love can easily become an overbearing clinging and demandingness for the other to fill all our needs (often without regard for their particular needs, even those we can legitimately fill).

We don't like that feeling of emptiness, and part of our fallen nature is to try to fill that emptiness with all manner of distractions so that we don't have to feel what can never, for now, be filled. Something to remember and think on when we see the alcoholic, the drug addicted, the sexual deviants and adulterers, the depressed, the obsessive/compulsive, the demented, those lost and wandering, even the criminal and violent. They are no different from us. There is emptiness within all of us that we all rage against in our own particular ways, socially acceptable or not.


There is a desperation in everything meaningful we try to partake in... We want a real relationship with God, the ultimate reality, and instead the experience of so many of us is an unreality in relation to God. An Absence. A deep longing to embrace God, to love and live in his presence...yet an unfulfilled longing that finds us embracing our own imaginings. I despair because I want to be loved, and I don't know if I am. And my experience and flawed understanding both tell me I am not - not in the deep, fulfilling way that I long for. What kind of real, solid, loving relationship is experienced in the abstract only? Seeing in circumstance the hand of God - Loving? Angry? What does this good or bad really mean?

We seek to fulfill our longings, our emptiness, with human companionship, love, and we so often end in a clinging, controlling wreck...

(and that's my happy thought for the day...)

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Very well said!

About every year or so I will hear someone preach the "Is God enough for you?" message. This seems to be such a common message and question in Christendom but, as you indicate, you never really hear the writers of scripture hitting this point.

"It is an easy temptation to go from needing others and God to fill those proper places in us, to trying to get them to fit into empty places they are not and were never meant to fill."

Thus the cause of much of the stress within the Christian community. I wonder how many ills could be traced back to trying to fill a need in the wrong way or with the wrong object.