A Heart Divided – Moving Toward Integrity

June 14, 2009

If you are here unfaithfully with us
you are causing terrible damage.

                                                 (Rumi)

Integrity is, first and foremost, about wholeness, human wholeness and human flourishing.  It’s hard to flourish in the broken world we live in.  There is enough on the outside that grinds against us, but our worst enemy may be within, because within lies the bitter entanglements and biting polarizations which cause us to live a divided life, an unfaithful life.    

Integrity is a word that focuses on an individual.  If I were to talk about the emerging wholeness of the cosmos as God’s Kingdom-come, I’d use the word shalom.  But, human wholeness, though envisioned in shalom, is brought into focus and clarity through the word integrity.  

As I said in the last post, the New Testament envisions integrity in the Greek word katharos.  It’s a vision of an undivided heart –  a faithful heart.  As Rumi said so long ago, you damage yourself and your community if you live unfaithfully, divided, and without wholeness.  If this is true, God knows I’ve done a lot of damage, and so have you.  

It’s helpful to trace this concept back to its origins.  And if you do, I suspect you’ll find Trinity.  The Trinity defines Integrity.  The ancients tried to find words to put around it – three persons, one substance.  And we, the Bible says, are His image.  

We are His image.  We are one substance.  We are souled bodies, or bodied souls…whatever you please.  We, too, put words around this, like the ancients put words around the Trinity.  We call this our core, our being, our self.  Substance is core, isn’t it?  It’s steady and centered, at its best.  But, it does not tell the whole story.  You see, the Trinity is both unity and multiplicity.  It is particle and wave.  It is substance and person.  And God’s creation is modeled after it, with humanity being at its center.

So, then, what does it mean that humans are multiple?  Does it mean that we’ve all got Multiple Personality Disorder (less known, but more accurately DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder)?  No.  Although, it does explain the extreme brokenness that comes with DID.  What it does mean is that, like God, humans as a whole, and in particular, evidence multiplicity.  Now, for the entire human race, that’s not a stretch.  But, for individual humans, it is hard to believe that one substance and three persons describes us.  

The Pointer Sisters sang We are Family, and we – get this – can also say this about ourselves.  Think about it.  You’ve wondered, at times, if you have multiple personalities.  You’ve wished that you could be the partying extrovert that showed up at the New Years Eve party.  You’ve also wished you could be the busy worker-bee that accomplished so much before the big garage sale.  You covet those innocent moments when you tune into a childlike part of you.  And you despise that inner critic that seems to whisper, “You’re doing it wrong” all of the time.  You talk about putting on a happy face.  And you talk about needing to become the tough guy in order to confront your co-worker.  You see, we have a variety of personalities.  We are, after all, substance and personality, particle and wave, unity and multiplicity.  

If you’re still with me, the problem is evident.  Integrity eludes us.  We wish to be centered, but we lived fragmented.  We wish to have a unified purpose within our beautiful complexity.  We wish to stay in self, as the conductor of our own internal orchestra, but we find that our parts/personalities want a lead role.  When someone comes to me for counseling and says, “I’m depressed,” they might as well be saying, “My Depressed part has taken over, overpowering and enslaving me.”  Now, here’s the trick.  Integrity does NOT mean cutting off a limb, just as it does not mean cutting off the weakest member of the church because he’s a pain.  It means this:  you need to listen better.

You see, if you’re a Christian, I suspect that you can say, with some integrity, that you’re not as whole as you’d like.  Parts of you, we might say, have not yet “come to Christ.”  You’ve been released from slavery, but parts of you remain in it.  Your Depressed part, in other words, is stubbornly refusing to come to the communion table, to smoke the peace pipe, to join the family.  In these times, it feels as if you are enslaved by it.  Indeed, you are, to some extent.  Our entire physiology, including our brain chemistry, is impacted, even generationally, by these things.  

Rembrandt - The Return of the Prodigal SonMoving towards integrity, however, means listening in to those divergent voices and, with compassion, asking probing questions like, “How did you get here?” or “What is prompting this?” or “Who hurt you?”  To the extent that we come to understand the parts of ourselves that, like prodigal sons, run away from Home (our center, self, substance), we will bring our whole selves to the table of fellowship, to the feast, to the celebration of shalom, integrity, and wholeness.

Jesus, in other words, is waiting for each part of you to come to Him.  

More to come…