When they said repent... I wonder what they meant?

As I was sitting yesterday, waiting to get my hair cut, I read these words:

The divided life comes in many and varied forms... Dividedness is a personal pathology, but it soon becomes a problem for other people. It is a problem for students whose teachers "phone it in" while taking cover behind their podiums and their power. It is a problem for patients whose doctors practice medical indifference, hiding behind a self-protective scientific facade. It is a problem for employees whose supervisors have personnel handbooks where their hearts should be. It is a problem for citizens whose political leaders speak "with forked tongue."

Parker Palmer makes it clear in A Hidden Wholeness: the Journey Toward an Undivided Life that we have each been called beyond our inner divisions into integrity. That is, integral living - "the state or quality of being entire, complete and unbroken" - a way of being at home in our own skin, at peace with our own soul and at rest with our own conscience. "Come unto me," Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28 and "I shall give you rest." John's gospel promises much the same when the mystical Jesus tell his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. So do not let your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid." (14:27)

Two promises are implicit in this calling into integral living:  rest and trust. Palmer notes that an undivided life is not about ethics. "The divided or compartmentalized life, at bottom, is not a failure of ethics. It is a failure of human wholeness." He goes to note that many people in positions of power have a "well-rehearsed habit of holding their own knowledge and beliefs at great remove from the living of their lives." They have all studied ethics and professional boundaries ad nauseum. 

So if we approach the pathology of the divided life... as a problem to be solved by raising the ethical bar - exhorting each other to jump higher and meting out tougher penalties to those who fall short - we may feel more virtuous for a while, but we will not address the problem at its source. 

What is needed instead is a inner bridge-building brigade that gently works to

link our souls to our deeds. Our culture does not value the inward journey. It celebrates only the bottom line and what we can see, control and posses. But singer Carrie Newcomer, writing in her morning reflection, notes that there is a truth greater than the lowest common denominator of the market place:

One of our true tasks on the road to wholeness is learning to trust our own soul's wisdom. There is something healed and whole within us that is growing in the quiet and safety of our secret hearts. It grows in small steps and rarely large leaps, so we celebrate the small indicators. But take heart, be assured, listen - a seed is where the widest most gracious branches begin.

I sense that for me personally - and for our community of faith, too - these next few years will be saturated in this kind of caring for our souls. Not only is this essential for our personal well-being, but it is clearly the path of loving the world into greater health.  Leonard Cohen, our contemporary ancient prophet of all that is sacred and true, put it like this when he in the song "The Future" -"the blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and it has overturned the order of the soul."


ddl said…
Yes, this hits very close to home for me. Living an integrated life is the pearl of great price, in many ways...has always been, as Jesus represents such a thing. And if we are to move forward in the spiritual life, then one must trust a fierce search for that pearl, even if it means death to some parts of the soul or ways of coping with the trials of life. I suppose that one of the less graceful expectations that I have had is that my own risktaking and bravery would be met by another's honesty and revelation...what I mean is that, so often people (enemies and friends) will desire to press upon someone else's (an opponent's) vulnerability and gracelessness, without sharing their own, as a power play or way to keep themselves at a distance (self-protected distance). In family struggles I have witnessed this gracelessness. So, one person in the family becomes the "example" and the "scapegoat" of all the projection and history of the others. I am not sure that I am explaining this correctly. But Jesus, as he wrote in the sand, tried to show those throwing stones why it was that they were so eager to pick up stones. One of the things that I have always told myself is to remember who has power, then try to see things from the perspective of the ones who are most affected by decisions that come from a place of power.

But sometimes, I am just too tired with living to process these kinds of deep arguments. And sometimes people like to have rules and routines so that they don't have to deal with complexity or repent of their own hidden miseries. I wonder how this plays out on the larger world scale. It must, I think.

Have a good vacation, friend.
RJ said…
Your vulnerability and honesty is moving to me, my friend. And it is the pearl of great price. I resonate with this in a profound way...thank you for sharing from your heart. Lots of loving prayers for you.

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