Summary: We tend to divorce our spiritual lives from our physical lives and see little connection or interdependence between the two.
Holistic Salvation: A Life of Discipline Lent Week 4
March 14, 2010
One of the things I love about being a pastor is that as a generalist, I get to experience an incredible variety in jobs, tasks, roles, and activities. Part of the time I am a public speaker, part of the time I am a counsellor, part of the time I am an administrator, part of the time I am a team builder, part of the time I am a boss, part of the time I am a friend on a journey, part of the time I am a researcher, part of the time I am a mediator, and so on and so on and so on… and I am very blessed to be a part of a community that accepts me as a generalist and doesn’t expect me to be excellent at all those areas. If you did, you’d just end up disappointed and I’d end up insane. Now, though I am a generalist, I love specialists and use their services and expertise frequently. However, as I look at our culture we have come to rely almost exclusively on the experts, the specialists, and thus we tend to lose the integration of the whole.
Let me explain with a physical analogy. As I look at the amazing way God has created us, I really believe He made us as an integrated whole. We are a body, mind, emotion, and soul all integrated into one whole person. I firmly believe that any illness in one of those areas is going to have an impact in all the others – it creates a problem for the whole. But we don’t tend to treat it as a problem of the whole, we put it in one box and drill down to the bottom of that and treat just that part; or else we leave it up to the sick person to tackle all the other areas on their own. Let’s take, for example, a medical diagnosis like cancer. Something doesn’t feel right, so we go to our GP (another generalist), who orders some tests on our body and likely hands us off to an oncologist and/or a surgeon and/or whoever else may be in that medical professional care team. And I praise God for all of them, value them highly, and believe they are active participants in God’s grand will for all humanity whether they know it or acknowledge it or not. But my point is that as a society we treat that illness almost entirely as a physical issue, with comparatively very little resources or efforts to address the other parts of our humanity that are deeply impacted. Now, again I do not say that to disparage or ignore the other supports that do exist, like counselling or support groups or music therapy or healing prayer, my point is that those are not really part of the conversation in the oncologists’ office. They might get mention, but they tend not to be part of a holistic healing plan that addresses each person as a whole. Some people are highly motivated and self-directed, and so create their own healing plans for their whole beings – Eileen Spillett is the best example I know of this. She never saw her cancer as just a physical thing, she fought it with her body, mind, spirit, and emotions, and sought out healing in cooperative ways for all those parts, and it was truly an amazing fight. But I see that very much as a rarity, and it was something she had to do on her own – even with some discouragement and disapproval of the physical/medical professionals treating her.
My point is that we tend to live as disparate parts instead of integrated wholes, and we seldom really recognize the interdependence of the parts. If someone breaks a leg trying some really risky ski move, we’d probably see it as a physical problem instead of wondering how to find health in the emotional and spiritual and intellectual areas that push this person to seek thrills. And the result of this fractured approach to life is a compartmentalism, where we put these different parts of our selves into different boxes on different shelves, and then struggle to really live. I especially notice that in our spiritual lives – we don’t tend to live with a fully integrated understanding of our selves as fully human where all these parts are interdependent and balanced.
The Body and the Rest:
Today I want to talk about how the practice of the spiritual disciplines help us to integrate our lives into a whole. I think the biggest place of divorce is between our physical selves, our bodies, and the other areas. We can mix up our minds, feelings, and spirits, lump them all in an “intangibles” box”, and leave them jumbled together. But I see a large gap between our bodies and those intangibles, especially our spiritual life and our bodies. We don’t generally see much of a connection, do we? But Scripture, and the wisdom of our spiritual heritage tell us the opposite. Let’s look first to Scripture: