Living an Integrated Life
God asks us to be honest with Him. He desires that we pursue Christ with our whole heart, mind and spirit. For us to be effective in Christian service we should be fully integrated people. All aspects of our personality should be open and subject to the authority of God. When we hide a secret, or live a double life, we close off the power of God to move within us, which greatly cripples our ability to follow him. Confessing our sins and struggles to God and each other is important if we are to pursue a grace-filled, abundant life.
In the book, “Speaking the Truth in Love – How to be an Assertive Christian,” by Ruth Koch and Kenneth Haugk, the authors state:
“Of course the fully integrated personality is the ideal. Human beings are all less than fully integrated. In fact, one of the life tasks for everyone is to move in the direction of more fully integrating all the separate components of his or her personality… What was whole at creation was broken and fragmented by sin, and Jesus has come personally into history and into individual lives to restore wholeness…God is willing to supply, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the wholeness that you need.”
Confessing struggles, weaknesses and failings, and pursuing self-acceptance is critical to becoming a fully integrated person.
Baby and Bath Water
You’ve heard it said, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!” We were created as we are for the purpose of glorifying God. Just because we desire to change, it does not automatically follow that change should occur, or is even healthy for us. Those personality traits or quirks that we consider to be solely a weakness, may often contribute or be a necessary part of what we would consider our personality strengths. It is difficult to stuff into our emotional closets one specific “undesirable” aspect of our personalities. Unfortunately, those who try to do so may end up shutting down completely. We may be able to, for a time, squelch certain undesirable actions or expressions, but frustration usually results because no healthy outlet is engaged in that allows the person to express these real psychological needs or wants.
However, even with our best efforts, our basic personality will remain the same and the struggle will continue. Without the comfort and encouragement of others, we can end up trapped in a bitter cycle of indulgence, stifling guilt, repentance, frustration and back to indulgence. We continue in this cycle because the underlying personality issues and needs are never addressed, and basic personality remains unaltered.
When a supposed weakness is treated only as a stumbling block to Christian growth, the issue might never be honestly dealt with but instead stuffed into the back of the closet. Ignoring an issue denies the person the opportunity of dealing with their issues honestly. However, our weaknesses if honestly confronted, can lead to realistic self-evaluation, godly understanding, and positive growth. Our weaknesses can draw us closer to others in the church for mutual support and also closer to God.
Sometimes our weaknesses and struggles are there for a reason. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church:
“To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh…Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
We need to rely on the grace God provides through the work on the cross. This grace allows us to express ourselves and discover who we are without the threat of a broken relationship with our Creator. The pursuit of an integrated life allows us to develop real relationships that include our whole being.
Avoiding Cultural Judgments and Pursuing God’s Righteousness
The righteousness of man should never be confused with the righteousness of God. Unfortunately our understanding of God and scripture is filtered through our personal experiences. As a result, we usually make judgments of others based on our cultural comfort zone. As Christians, we have the duty and honor to speak and act on behalf of God. So, when we have the opportunity to show Christ to others, we should avoid applying our own righteous standards on that person. Our judgments of others, in effect, minimizes the righteousness of God lowering God to our level. It is not our place to judge another person’s standing before God, but with humility serve one another in faith and love.
Romans 10: 1, 3-13 discusses pitfalls concerning culturally-driven standards of righteousness, and the temptation to pass judgment on another’s eternal standing:
“…For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law of righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.” (This man is living by his own standard and not God’s standard.)
“But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”— that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him…” (NASB)
The world too often bears witness to the hypocrisy of a church that rejects certain sins, yet practices others. Some sins are allowed within the Church walls and freely discussed, while others are never mentioned. It is apparent that the church often operates under a hierarchy of sin.
Unfortunately, the sins or conditions we are able to understand, and tolerate in others, are those we share in common. If we share in a struggle then we are more sympathetic to that struggle. If we do not share in someone’s struggle we will have no understanding of what they are going through and little tolerance for that person. The church should be the one place where diversity should be expressed and we are accepted as we are.