The Integrated Life


Our church just finished its annual retreat in early June.  We had a wonderful time together hanging out, recreating, singing, learning, reflecting.  The theme of the retreat was a theme that is close to my heart: “The Integrated Life”

What does that phrase mean to you when you hear it?  What images does it evoke?

Here is one way to describe the concept of the integrated life.  It is a quote from Parker Palmer that describes the opposite of the integrated life – a divided life:

“I pay a steep price when I live a divided life – feeling fraudulent, anxious about being found out, and depressed by the fact that I am denying my own selfhood.  The people around me pay a price as well, for now they walk on ground made unstable by my dividedness.  How can I affirm another’s identity when I deny my own?  How can I trust another’s integrity when I deny my own?  A fault line runs down the middle of my life, and whenever it cracks open – divorcing my words and actions from the truth I hold within – things around me get shaky and start to fall apart.”

I think the concept of a divided life is a powerful and provocative image.  Does that phrase describe you as much as it does myself?  Do any of these truths ring home for you?

  • I don’t believe possessions define me, yet feel a constant need to acquire more stuff
  • I am out until 2 in the morning partying and then in church the next morning
  • I see something that is wrong yet do nothing about it, betraying my own beliefs
  • I believe something is wrong, yet I do it anyway, betraying my conscience
  • I act confident and self-assured on the outside while internally I am racked with doubt and uncertainty
  • I put myself in environments that steal from my soul.  I know it is happening yet I don’t remove myself.
  • I find myself caring deeply about justice and social concerns yet don’t feel a strong need for Jesus.
  • I eagerly listen to the latest gossip while at the same time hating myself for it
  • I am in a relationship is killing my spirit, yet I don’t break off the relationship.
  • I sense an openness in one of my friends towards God yet I hide my belief to avoid any discomfort
  • I want to be a generous person yet month after month goes by without giving the firstfruits of my resources to God
  • I feel a deep need for the presence of God in my life, yet week after week goes by without intentional time in Scripture and prayer
  • I know a relationship I care about is unresolved, yet I avoid bringing up the issue for fear of conflict
  • I know that I am a child of God yet feel an unbending drive to prove myself to those around me
  • I deeply care about someone I love yet find myself cutting them with harsh and hurtful words in the midst of my hurt and anger
  • I think of myself as a person committed to honesty yet often find myself lying to save face
  • I long to be faithful to my spouse yet find myself fantasizing about being with other people
  • I long to be known yet withhold from moving towards others out of fear of rejection
  • At an intellectual level I know that I earn more than enough money to survive and thrive, yet my spirit is filled with anxiety and insecurity

We all live divided lives, and the price of that dis-integration is costly to both ourselves and those around us.  If that is true, then what is the way out?  How do we say no to a divided life and yes to an integrated life?  The next couple of posts will look at this question, but for now another great quote from Palker Palmer to reflect on:

“[Integrity] means much more than adherence to a moral code: it means ‘the state of quality of being entire, complete, and unbroken,’ as in integer or integral… When we understand integrity for what it is, we stop obsessing over codes of conduct and embark on the more demanding journey towards being whole.”

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