Be really whole and all things will come to you. ~ Lao Tzu
My friend Kelly Diels spoke this quote to me a few months back. I jotted it down on a piece of paper filled with scrawled notes from our hour-long conversation – cascading over the top of one another, extending far past the margins, and scratched diagonally, even upside down. Memory triggers, phrases, quick synopses of our brains and voices tumbling with ideas, concepts, passions, laughter, understanding. I’ve looked at those notes many, many times. But still, I didn’t see it.
The reason why? I didn’t want to. It requires more of me than I often want to give.
Here’s the hard truth: partially whole isn’t gonna cut it.
Partially whole means disconnected, less than 100%, incomplete. Partially whole means excuses, playing it safe, holding back. Partially whole means focusing on the things that we want to have come to us…rather than on being ourselves. Partially whole isn’t even worth pursuing.
Really whole is the only thing worth pursuing. Really whole means being connected, complete, and fully there. Really whole means no excuses, taking risks, and giving our all. Really whole means letting go of our incessant worries about things and instead, focusing on ourselves – our real selves – our whole selves.
But we have a well-learned tendency, or perhaps pathology, to turn this formula right around. In practice (and with more hard truth), this is the way we live:
When all things come to me, I’ll be really whole.
Yikes. See the problem there?
It’s understandable, really. The actual quote and it’s inherent idea makes us super nervous. We have a hard time trusting that all things will include all the things we so desperately crave, grasp, and seek to control. We start worrying. What if being really whole might just mean less money, a different definition of success, or finding ourselves in places of struggle and even aloneness? We flash on images of martyrs, missionaries, advocates for justice, brave souls that risked everything for their cause…It requires more of us than we often want to give.
In my faith heritage there is a verse I’ve heard/used/trusted/despised over and over again. Not scrawled on a piece of paper filled with passion-filled thoughts, it’s written on my brain, hard-wired into my psyche, undeniably part of my very DNA. It turns me on top of myself, extends me beyond my margins, and twists me diagonally, even upside down. But still, I see it – even when I don’t want to. It requires more of me than I often want to give.
All things work together for good for those who love God… ~ Romans 8:28
Too many times, when we have nothing else to say in the darkest of situations, in places of deepest grief, confusion, and angst (our own and others’), we repeat these words hoping to bring comfort; hoping that some higher and more godly perspective will enable an acceptance of whatever plagues.
Here’s the hard truth: it just doesn’t cut it.
It feels less-than, partial, even disingenuous. We feel compelled to maintain a positive outlook, a cheery disposition, and trust in a seemingly-simplistic cliche when more truthfully, we are overcome by the world’s (our own and others’) suffering, heartache, tears, fears, disabilities, tragedy, trauma, lack, and loss. It feels more than partially confusing. How are we to reconcile a god with a reality that feels anything but good? Just grin and bear it? Just soldier on? Just quote the verse but silently seethe?
It’s understandable, really. The actual verse and it’s inherent idea makes us super nervous.
Both statements speak (hard) truth and require more of us than we often want to give.
The similarity between the two can hardly be ignored. One speaks of having all things, the other all things working out. One calls to being really whole, the other to wholly loving god. The case could be made that being really whole IS wholly loving god…and vice versa (another blog post for another time).
But maybe even more similar and significant is the awareness of what binds the two together: faith.
- It takes faith to pursue wholeness over and above grasping for things.
- It takes faith to allow that being really whole is not synonymous with the granting of all my wishes and hopes…getting the things I want.
- It takes faith to love a god (and the god in self) that is not swayed or defined by all of my wishes and hopes…getting the things I want.
- It takes faith to give up control and trust…that good things will come, that good things will happen, and even that good ultimately triumphs.
- And faith, just like these two statements, requires more of us than we often want to give.
I’m not going to quote Romans 8:28 to you. Nor am I going to tell you that if you’ll only focus on being really whole that everything is going to work out perfectly. Both would potentially be unhelpful and even unkind. What I will tell you is this: the pursuit of being really whole is better than any thing you could ever want or pursue AND being really whole is an experience of god (no matter how defined) that helps make sense of all things.
The Lao Tzu quote was overlooked in my conversational musings with Kelly. Romans 8:28 was overlooked intentionally. But their “voices” tumble with ideas, concepts, passions, laughter, understanding. Their conversation echoes in my mind and impacts my heart. And they call me to levels of wholeness, depth, and honesty that I’d rather escape. Both require more of me than I often want to give.
It’s not surprising that I’ve overlooked them. They do not overlook me.
Much is required. And more is gained.
That’s always how it goes. Why do I/we resist so?