Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
--Proverbs 10:9 NIV
This week in my e-mails I will be reflecting on the book A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life by Parker Palmer. Palmer is one of the authors who has guided my own faith journey, and I often recommend his writings to people questioning the direction of their lives. In this book, he describes the costs of compartmentalizing our innermost identities and beliefs away from the outward actions and false identities we present to others.
In A Hidden Wholeness, he writes,
Afraid that our inner light will be extinguished or our inner darkness exposed, we hide our true identities from each other. In the process we become separated from our own souls. We end up living divided lives so far removed from truth we hold within that we cannot know the integrity that comes from being what you are.
When our lives become divided, our inner self and real convictions separate from our outer selves and actions, we pay a price and so do those around us.
Palmer provides examples of living the divided life:
He describes how these examples come from something deeper than a lack of ethics. In today’s culture, ethics can become merely an external code of conduct, a “moral exoskeleton” that we can slip off whenever it suits us. Inner integrity is necessary to join our actions to our deepest selves.
Palmer wrote A Hidden Wholeness, about fifteen years ago when the news headlines still featured corporate scandals like Worldcom and Enron, the financial crisis was only beginning to reveal the extent immoral lending practices by the nation’s largest banks would have on the economy, and the clergy sexual abuse scandal was revealed with its horrific consequences for thousands of children. In our present time, things have not become any better. In a world of “alternative facts” where blatant deception is presented as “truth,” our culture demonstrates the consequences of people living divided lives.
Palmer uses the image of a blizzard to describe the confusing times we find ourselves in.
The was a time when farmers on the Great Plains, at the first sign of a blizzard, would run a rope from the back door out to the barn. They all knew stories of people who had wandered off and been frozen to death, having lost sight of home in a whiteout while still in their own backyards.
The blizzard of our culture “swirls with economic injustice, ecological ruin, physical and spiritual violence.” The confusion of our times may leave us thinking there is no hope for things like “truth and justice, love and forgiveness” to guide our lives. Yet, Palmer declares we remain in “the soul’s backyard, with chance after chance to regain our bearings.” The guide rope in our “blizzards” comes in the form of “trustworthy relationships, tenacious communities of support.” Such relationships should happen in a faith community (sadly the often do not), but also come in support groups, faithful work colleagues and healthy friendships and families.
Most of all, our ultimate guide rope comes from the One who created us and in whose image we are made. God knows our true selves, because God knows us best of all. The God made manifest in Jesus Christ does not stand apart from us as a punishing judge but comes near to us offering grace upon grace to guide us back to who we were created to be. As humans, we may always struggle to discover the wholeness God offers us, choosing to live with our actions divorced from our deepest truths, but God remains with us along the way assuring us we can discover ways of being that cause less pain to ourselves and others, new ways of peace and joy.
Grace and Peace,
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