Reflections on Human Wholeness

It’s been about a year since we first made the discovery.  It was almost unavoidable.  Multiple nights a week I would lock myself in the bedroom.  No light. No sound. No movement.  No thoughts even remotely close to any of the things that were the source of so much pain. I was plagued by these debilitating migraines.  I knew the symptoms all too well, but had very little insight into the cause.  I guess I just thought, People get migraines, no big deal.  At some point it was a big deal.  Because it was consuming my life. sad That year was a tough one.  I was newly married, working an incredibly emotionally demanding job, and grieving the divorce of my parents.  I was pretty much in a constant state of meltdown, breakdown, or blow up.  Which left me beyond exhausted. So what did we discover?  Oh yeah.  Food Allergies: The cause of my migraines.  (Doesn’t sound as heinous as you were thinking, right?)  While I was trying to dodge these migraines with gallons of water and fistfuls of ibuprofen, my husband had a better idea.  A more orderly, systematic approach to things.  He took note of what we were eating and finally one day it smacked us in the face.  I was allergic something I ate almost every day. It still amazes me that what you put in your body can affect you so profoundly.  But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all connected.  I never had a problem with these foods before.  It seemed really sudden and unexplainable.  In light of everything I was facing, I wondered how much stress could play a role in this.  How much could my mind and emotions really affect my body? As the story goes, I couldn’t continue to live that way.  It was terrible.  I was truly suffering.  I found a counselor I trust and a doctor that uses a natural approach.  A year later, I can say that I have found so much relief!  And I’ve learned some things along the way. TheJourneyToWholenessMessageScreen It’s clear to me, now more than ever, that we are whole.  I’ve always connected with that in theory.  But it is a completely different thing to experience it.  It is truly a mystery.  I can hardly begin to conceptualize or put into words how it works.  Here’s what I know:  My emotions impact my body.  (And visa versa)  My spirit speaks to my emotions, soothes them, strengthens them, which in turn calms my body as well.  I’ve seen it time and time again! So here’s my question… We are all human. We all have bodies, minds, souls. So, why is this concept so foreign to us? Why is it that when I try to write about this experience…it’s like there’s no language for it? We totally don’t think like this.  We don’t engage life from this perspective.  I feel like we are fairly blind to the connections that naturally exist within us.  And I’m wondering, why don’t we talk about this more?  Why don’t we engage it?  Why is the Church fairly silent on this issue? 12_heart-boxers-knockout I’m not sure why.  I know that we tend to focus on the opposing forces of the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17).  You know, we are told that we are in a war and that our flesh cannot be trusted.  We must overcome it.  We talk a lot about Romans 8, putting off the flesh and putting on the Spirit.  We talk about Paul and why do I do the thing which I don’t want to do?  These things get a lot of attention.  And I’m not saying they’re not important, I just don’t think that they cover the whole story. I think that the Church is grappling with this right now.  I’d say that most of us don’t accept that we as humans are merely flesh warring against spirit.  Rather we are whole beings and there is this unity between body, mind, soul and it reflects the unity of God: Father, Son, Spirit.  But I think that our understanding of this is stunted and we still struggle to understand the complexity of who we are and how we are made. And what it means for us to live as whole beings. What if instead of first fighting our flesh, we learn to listen to our bodies?  What does it mean to be a new creation?  How does that shift the relationship we have with our body and the way we think?  How do we strengthen the connections between our body, mind, soul, and spirit?  What is the value of that?  How does God desire and intend for us to live?  I think that many in the Church are asking these questions and more. yoga-mind1 Take this article in Relevant Magazine. Give it a read if you (or a friend, wink) question the morality of yoga. Another article in Christianity Today had some interesting commentary on this.

Why are we so attracted to yoga, acupuncture, and the like? As people of faith, we recognize that we are multidimensional beings. We know that we are more than just a body, but exist as bodies, minds, and spirits, and all parts of us need attention. It raises the question: Why haven’t similar practices come out of Christianity? [But instead]…we live compartmentalized lives. We go to the doctor to treat our bodies. We go to church to treat our souls. We might go to the psychiatrist to treat our minds. All the while, by neglecting the connections between our bodies, minds, and souls, we walk around feeling less-than-whole in our search for healing. Conventional Western medicine fails miserably at considering this holistic view.

[And unfortunately at times…so does the church.]

Western medicine treats the body without attending to the soul. On the other, the faith community prioritizes the soul while often neglecting the body. We tend to work out our faith largely in our minds, disconnected from what our bodies feel.

seed sprout N.T. Wright discusses this in his paper on Mind, Spirit, Soul, and Body.  [Warning: it is a challenging read, but there are some pretty great morsels in there (along with mind-bending arguments against the dualism that pervades our society in many forms).] He points us to 1 Thessalonians 5:13:

[The] language [in this verse] is, in any case, wholistic: may the God of peace sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit, soul, and body be preserved whole and entire until the royal appearing of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.  If Paul had wanted to say that he saw these three aspects of humanity as separable, or, particularly, as to be ranked in importance over one another, he’s gone about it in a very strange way.  It seems to me, then, taken all together, that when Paul thinks of human beings he sees every angle of vision as contributing to the whole, and the whole from every angle of vision.  All lead to one, the one is seen in the all.  And, most importantly, each and every aspect of the human being is addressed by God, is claimed by God, is loved by God, and can respond to God.

How then shall we live? What does it mean to experience God in these ways? What does it look like for each and every aspect of our beings to be addressed by God, claimed by God, loved by God, and to respond to God?


Truth speaks:

Dear Body, Mind, Spirit, Soul:

You are addressed by God.
You are claimed by God.
You are loved by God.
You may respond to God.

Live as such.

7 thoughts on “Reflections on Human Wholeness

  1. Steff, I love the journey you are on with God and with Jake. This post makes me think of his post about his bodyv shortly after you were married. That’s another aspect of wholeness, becoming whole within ourselves so that our relationships increase in wholeness, too. I hope you write about this more 🙂

  2. Migraines, yes, the dreaded migraine I have a lifetime of experience with them. I think perhaps at the heart of your thoughts/questions/insights here may be a simpler question ( or perhaps a foundation to build on ); how many ask the question or take the time to ask “What does it mean to be a Christian in God’s eyes as revealed in scripture “?

  3. Migraines, yes, the dreaded migraine I have a lifetime of experience with them. I think perhaps at the heart of your thoughts/questions/insights here may be a simpler question ( or perhaps a foundation to build on ); how many ask the question or take the time to ask “What does it mean to be a Christian in God’s eyes as revealed in scripture “? Once asked, will time be given to pursue the answer and act upon the discoveries ?

  4. Great post, Steff. Love to hear your heart. And I did that thing that Jake mentioned in Travis’s post…I could totally hear your voice in this piece. Felt like a living room conversation that I miss so much!!

    My favorite part of this piece was your reflection on Wrights words at the end:

    “Dear Body, Mind, Spirit, Soul:

    You are addressed by God.
    You are claimed by God.
    You are loved by God.
    You may respond to God.

    Live as such.”

    This is taking a slight rabbit trail off of what you are saying but that last part got me thinking:

    Our wholeness only comes through a posture of worship with our eyes on Christ. Deuteronomy 6 comes to mind. The hardest thing of it all is how easy it is to make ourselves the focus. As a form of self-healing. So often it can become “Love the god of my self with all my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength.”

    That’s where I get Paul’s words over the Spirit and the flesh. We cannot live without that tension. In the media and in conversations with others there’s so many things that so easily draw my attention toward my weaknesses, and point out that I am not whole. And then my worship turns toward a desperate plea to pick up all the broken pieces (body mind and spirit) and hope they assemble themselves together into something that appears at least halfway whole. This assembly always turns into an idol. A self-deprecating and self-glorifying idol.

    And yet this is the beauty that is in Christ, even in our weakness, He, and only He, makes us new.

    I am whole because I AM has made me whole.

    No amount of yoga or whole foods or western or eastern medicine can fix my brokenness, like the latest trends are telling me they can. But as I am centered in Christ, and learning to be centered, I think yoga, dieting and all the etceteras are wonderful disciplines in posturing our whole selves in worship.

    Our response, like you said, to God.

    That was a lot. Just stirring thoughts. 🙂

    On another note, I could write a thousand blogs on how
    crippled and desperately sad western medicine is in even attempting to pursue wholeness. I am not looking forward to what this whole western “wellness” focus is going to look like coming out of the wash. Moving farther away from true healing than I think they meant to.

  5. I meant to read all the links before I posted… Oops 🙂 I’ll read tomorrow. They probably speak more into what I was just talking about.

  6. 1. I’m glad your migraines are at bay
    2. I had my first experiential body.spirit encounter 2 years ago when I was angry alot of the time, especially at work. While there was was some needed shift in my mentality, I found that running greatly aided in subduing my anger. It’s really interesting how the “different parts” of us, communicate and influence one another.
    3. Theologically – Dualism, gnosticism are some culprits in our way of thinking holistically… I’m sure Wright got into that.
    4. The church needs to break into bodily/physical worship more.

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