Living wholly, living holy

What started with ‘not self-harming’ has brought me further than I thought it could, transforming the whole of my life, not just how I cope with stress or how I respond to an imminent panic-attack. It has led me into a diet which respects my body and the world around me, a career in pursuit of empowering people to live in fullness, an attitude of non-violence to myself, others, and the world around me. And it is still changing me, drawing me on.

That small desire to be healthier in mind so that I could be a better mum has brought me face-to-face with questions of authenticity, it has challenged my playing safe, and it has brought me into more fullness than I dreamed (and yet I still know there is more to come). The more I heal, the more holistic my healing becomes, the wider my healing ranges, and the more important I find the idea of living holistically.

This idea of living wholly has me opening doors I never knew were closed, questioning things I never thought could be any other way. It has brought me into greater unity with myself, my body, and the world around me. And greater unity with my God.

This journey reminds me that we can’t separate parts of ourselves (or our world) off and treat them as completely solo and separate; we are intrinsically intertwined. It’s easy to assume that God is only interested in our spiritual wellbeing – how holy we are living, how closely we are clinging to God’s ways. But we cannot divide off the spiritual part of ourselves, as if it were just one lobe of a clover. We aren’t like that. Every part of ourselves is enmeshed with every other part.

So, our spiritual wellbeing – how we are relating to God and following God’s ways, is tangled up with our mental wellbeing, the self-talk which is continuously happening in our heads. And that mental wellbeing is not separate from our social wellbeing, the people we hang out with, how they talk to us, of us, and around us. And none of that is separate from our physical wellbeing, the food we eat, the ways we move our bodies, the way our bodies feel. And none of these different ‘parts’ of our life are untouched and uninfluential on our emotional wellbeing, how happy or calm or fulfilled we are by life. And all these factors influence how capable or willing we are to live a life in pursuit of God.

Every aspect of our lives is attached to and affects every other, like a great webbed network. The more one transforms part of one’s life, the more one must also improve the whole of one’s life to maintain the change and to continue transforming. When you seek to eat more healthily, you are also drawn towards making better choices in other parts of your life, towards living more authentically. And the more authentically you begin to live, the more confident you become in making the better choices, to living in-line with your values, and more in-line with God.

God calls us into both holiness and wholeness.

God told the Israelites and tells us, to “be holy as I am holy”.

In Hebrew, ‘holy’ and ‘separate’ come from the same root word. We see their connection in action with the separation of Israel from other nations – set apart as God’s chosen people. We see it in the setting apart of the Levites and then again of the priests, and then again of the high priest. We see it in the structure of the temple, the setting aside of holy space (something David could not do because of the life he had lived), and then of the most holy place set apart even further.

In Greek, the word translated as ‘holy’ has connotations of being set apart, being different from the world because we are like God.

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus puts it like this: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This word translated ‘perfect’, rather than meaning holy or set apart, means complete, fully grown, mature from going through the necessary process to meet the end goal, extended to full capacity. This wholeness becomes holiness: being whole like God.

In English, the words ‘holy’ and ‘healthy’ are from the same root word. And we see this also in the Israelites story: only men of full health and without infirmity or disability could serve as priests (see Leviticus 21:16-23). Their bodily wholeness and healthiness was a pre-requisite for their holiness. Numerous rules we find in Leviticus are for the Israelites’ health and wellbeing, and keeping those rules was a requirement for being God’s chosen and set aside people.

As well as being called into holiness, we are given the peace of Christ in which to dwell. It is a mark of our unity with Christ, part of the fruit of the Spirit. In John 14:27, Jesus says “my peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” Both the Greek of the New Testament translated here as ‘peace’ and the Hebrew word ‘shalom’ in the Old (which is most commonly translated into English as ‘peace’) have implications of wholeness.When all essential parts are joined together,” reads one word study. Harmony, concord, security, safety, prosperity. Things all working together for good.

So, when we are told by Jesus that he came so we might have abundant life (John 10:10), it is not an austere perfection, it is not holiness through scarcity, but a fullness of wellbeing, at peace and in harmony with oneself, the world around us, and God.

“The reign of God reverses the direction of purity: instead of withdrawing for fear of defilement, its agents are to spread holiness and wholeness through the holy spirit.” – David Rhoads, in ‘Mark as Story’.

God calls us into holiness and wholeness through love, not fear. In Christ we have been freed from the bondage of fear, freed from the suffering of our fears and brokenness. And we can meet ourselves with love. And, following God’s example, we can love ourselves into wholeness. Love is the path to living holy and living wholly.

Photo: Love is the path to living holy and living wholly.

Original photo by Brian Jimenez.


Beloved God, You want more for us than just spiritual health. You desire for us wholeness and a flourishing of wellbeing in other parts of our lives too – physical, mental, emotional, social. Help us to hold ourselves in these areas with Your grace, to show ourselves the love and compassion You first showed us. Amen.

 


twitter-greyEasy Tweetables for you to share:

God calls us into both holiness and wholeness. Holy and healthy are from the same root word. (click to tweet)

It is not holiness through scarcity, but a fullness of wellbeing, at peace & in harmony w/ oneself & God. (click to tweet)

Love is the path to living holy and living wholly. (click to tweet)

 

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To live non-violently – a manifesto

What does living non-violently mean to me? What does it look like?

It means living in tune with my body, her needs and her preferences; working with rather than through. It means taking a gentle approach to newness – of exercise, of diet – no sudden changes, but giving my body time to adapt and respond, letting her give me feedback as I move towards greater health.

It means living in tune with my self, my natural ways of being, my own loves, letting them shape my life.

It means parenting in tune with my children’s natures as well, learning about their natural styles of communicating, of learning, of loving, and working with their needs rather than my wants.

It means walking gently with the earth, using renewable resources and avoiding non-renewable ones as I am able. It means choosing products which have minimal impact on the natural world around us – in their production, in their transportation to us, in their use, and in their (and their packaging’s) afterlife (such as being aware of what is in our cleaning products and how those ingredients effect the streams they end up in). It means celebrating and being grateful for the plants which nourish and sustain us. It means composting, going vegetarian – if not vegan; it means not using (or supporting use of) chemicals to control the plants I eat and those around me. It means selecting materials which allow the earth to breath and absorb. Less concrete. More natural colour and texture.

It means choosing less processing – of food, of clothing fabrics; it means less dyes (and bleach), less plastic.

It means choosing a power company based not solely on price, but where they get their energy from, how they cooperate with the earth, how they support their employees.

It means fair-pay and fair-respect. And fair honouring of those who don’t get paid at all.

It means less purchase and use of items which cannot be recycled or reused; it means buying secondhand more; it means making do, repairing, upcycling, or doing without. It means choosing cloth over paper towels. It looks like washing rather than throwing away. It means voting with our money and our time – and being deliberate with both.

It means preferring the natural rhythms and randomness over enforced, imposed order. It means working with the cycles of the earth – seasons and days, and the cycles of my body. It looks like welcoming the different seasons of my life and the shifts of aging. It means celebrating the differences they all bring, being open to the gifts they offer. It means working with our natural rhythms, not using stimulants and relaxants to force our way through. It looks like rising with the dawn and slowing down with dusk. It means being deliberate with how we use our time, so we can be less rushed and less stressed, so we can live generously and patiently.

It means less harsh words, less critical self-talk. It looks like less careless words and more companionable silence.

It means welcoming difference – in others, in ourselves, in the things around us. It looks like mismatched chairs and odd mugs; well-loved furniture and mended clothes.

It means generous giving, not selfish grasping; open hands, not closed fists. It looks like mindsets of plenty, not of scarcity. It looks like release instead of restriction.

It means using the good china, the silverware, the crystal – just because, to delight in it now, not saving it for a later which may never come.

It means accepting breakages and stains as part of life well-lived and objects well-used, building in memories as they travel down the path to well-loved.

It means less plucking, less waxing, less dyeing, less concealment of imperfections. It means a gentle softness towards ourselves and the bodies which are part of us in this life. It means comfortable clothes and shoes, wearing things which support us towards health, not wearing things which contort our bodies or restrict our movement.

It means making room for both logic and intuition. It looks like heart and mind working together as one.

It looks like holding space for each other’s awkwardness and messiness; softness for each other’s unsmoothed edges. It means less trolling and more cheering. It looks like speaking up early; it means trusting each other’s words.

It means coming home to ourselves, and allowing and empowering others to do the same.

It means looking at things holistically, more than breaking things down and separating things into tiny pieces.

It looks like coming together.

It looks like rhythm and flow.

It means being good and kind to ourselves and to each other.

It looks like leaving things better than we find them – in our mundane day-to-day living, and setting up the next generation well to do the same.

It means taking responsibility for our actions, our words, our thoughts, our energy. It means being deliberate about what technology and media we allow in, and which we keep out. It means teaching our children to do the same.

It looks like being pro-active about healing and harm-prevention. It means more fences at the top of cliffs and less need for ambulances at the bottom.

It looks like standing our ground and holding our truth. It looks like not putting up with theologies and systems which lead to death, but chasing after the Life-giver.

It looks like living a life of love, a life after God. It means breaking the swords and tending the ground beneath our feet.

It means being ruled by love, rather than loving the rules. It looks like actively moving away from shame and guilt, away from pounding drums and thundering heartbeats.

It looks like taking action based in love, it means living out our faith, not just holding it in stillness.

It looks like grace poured out and love overflowing. It looks like life abundant.

Photo: Living non-violently looks like mismatched chair and ood mugs; it looks like holding space for each other's awkwardness. It looks like grace poured out and love overflowing. It looks like life abundant.

Original photo by Dawid Zawiła.


No, I’m not living this, not all of it, and not by a long short, but it is where my heart and soul are leading me. I’ve been slowly leaning towards living healthfully with myself, with others and the world around me, slowly making choices towards this non-violent life. Some of these ideas have been brewing for years, others have only surfaced recently (and I hold the right to edit this as I live into it). It’s how I see the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – taking form in my life.

 


twitter-greyEasy Tweetables for you to share:

Living non-violently means working with the cycles of the earth and of my body. (click to Tweet)

Living non-violently looks like mismatched chairs and odd mugs; well-loved furniture and mended clothes. (click to Tweet)

Living non-violently looks like holding space for each other’s awkwardness, softness for unsmoothed edges. (click to Tweet)

To live non-violently looks like grace poured out and love overflowing. It looks like life abundant. (click to Tweet)

A prayer for your weekend

Photo: Soft blue-grey clouds overlaid with text: Help us to remember that following Your ways is not just about how we treat others, but also about how we treat ourselves. Guide us into the love You have for us, that we might treat ourselves with gentle kindness, with loving-nonviolence. Soften our heards towards ourselves, that we might be both soaked in and pouring forth Your love.

Original photo by Tatiana Zhukova.

You always treat me with such gentleness and kindness, God.

You, who has the power to smash the earth with no effort. And isn’t that just what gentleness is? Not weakness, but strength and control.

Help us become more deft and skillful in the ways we treat ourselves. Help us to learn Your gentle love.

Show us where our hearts and minds have grown hard and calloused. Guide us towards softening.

Help us to rest in Your love, to rest in You.

Walking the Spiral Path to Non-Violence

It’s so easy to want to just let things go, to loose my tight hold and let things spiral out of control. I feel like I’ve been trying so hard, holding myself together, doing things right. But I’m tired. I’d like to just lose myself for a little while, hit pause on life and hide away.

I thought I’d been doing so well, that I had all the little things under control. But today it just all feels like too much. And the optimism is falling away, leaving me grey.

I’ve been trying so hard to approach myself with love, with gentle loving-kindness, with non-violence, but today it feels like the claws have come back out – in an effort to hold on, perhaps – but I am too practiced at turning them on myself.

Oh God. Help me to stand in the love you have for me. Help me to hold myself as Beloved.

It’s a slow, stumbling spiral. I can see how far I’ve come, but I can also see how far I have yet to go. To force a straight line into the centre is not an act of love, but an act of violence. It is no longer gentle, and it does not build the habits I need to sustain it.

I have been moving along this path for a long time, from before I even knew that was what I was doing. But seeking a better way to live, a more loving way to live and be.

The idea of non-violence has been with me a long time. I can remember discussions in childhood about conscientious objectors. I remember as a young adult deciding non-violence was a key pillar of my political stance. And as a parent, especially of my second child who is less like me than the first, I can remember trying to find ways of parenting which work with her nature, not mine, not the way I was taught and shown, as a path of love and nurture, and non-violence.

But I never thought to apply it to myself.

And now I look back and see that my changes towards gentleness and loving-kindness towards myself, my conscious shift in my self-talk away from harsh criticism and towards loving and gentle support, my diet adaptions to work with my body rather than forcing it to cooperate, my softening towards my body when it is in pain rather than trying to force it to continue and “harden up”, – these have all been movements on this path towards non-violence, non-violence with myself.

Some days it feels like stopping my self-harm was the easy (and most obvious) bit.

And days like today, when part of my mind just wants to tear me down and destroy all my efforts, makes me realise how far I still have to go.

Photo: The idea of non-violence has been with me a long time. But I never thought to apply it to myself. What a divine gift.

Original photo by Vladimir Kramer.

But the idea of a spiral path is reassuring. The destination is a certainty, even though it feels like I am not heading towards it. It is simply: a tiny step here, then a tiny step elsewhere. Each step building on what has come before, each step building momentum across the whole of my life. No big, hard, overnight transformation. Inch by inch I creep my way towards a goal I didn’t even realise I had.

And now I’ve found a label to help guide me in it: non-violence. Gentle loving-kindness.

I can use it as a lodestone, so I don’t have to respond to anxiety with a harsh cropping of my hair. Instead I can lavish love on myself, I can choose the opposite. Instead of scratching at a scar which never quite seems to smooth over, I can gently rub in some coconut oil, I can remind myself that I am worthy of love and care, that I don’t need to take out emotion on my physical self. But that I can wrap myself in kindness and support.

In fact, I am uniquely equipped to be doing just that: I am always right there, available to myself, and I can best know what I need (or at least know if an action isn’t having the intended loving, supporting effect).

And the more I treat myself with non-violence, with loving-kindness, the better I am at refusing the opposite – from myself and others, and the better I can be at offering love to others as well.

Jesus said that we are to love others as we love ourselves. And when we love ourselves well, it easily flows out to others. When we love ourselves well, when we allow ourselves to receive that love and gentleness from ourselves, we have an abundance of love which overflows into the lives of others.

It is not selfish to treat yourself with love and respect. It is not selfish to listen to your body’s voice and needs over what “the professionals” say you “should” be doing. It is not selfish to listen to your inner voice over the voices of others and let it guide you towards wholeness.

It is wisdom.

And it is love.

And it is a divine gift to both yourself and to the world.

 


twitter-greyEasy tweetables for you to share.

The more I treat myself with non-violence & loving-kindness, the better I am at refusing the opposite. (click to tweet)

When we love ourselves well, it easily flows out to others. (click to tweet)

It is not selfish to treat yourself with love and respect. (click to tweet)

The love that is non-violence is a divine gift to both yourself and to the world. (click to tweet)