Parker Palmer in his book ” A Hidden Wholeness” has a quote from Douglas Wood about the jack pine. “Jack pines….are not lumber trees (and they) won’t win many beauty contests either. But to me this valiant old tree, solitary on its own rocky point, is as beautiful as a living thing can be….In the calligraphy of its shape against the sky is written strength of character and perseverance, survival of wind, drought, cold, heat, disease…..In its silence it speaks of….wholeness….an integrity that comes from being what you are.”
The jack pine can speak to us of a life lived with integrity, that is, being who you truly are as a man. Palmer points out that we can be so fearful in our living that we hide our true identity from others. “We end up living divided lives”, says Palmer, “so far removed from the truth we hold within that we cannot know the ‘integrity that comes from being what you are.'” Quoting Thomas Merton he points out that “there is in all things….a hidden wholeness.” I must confess that I lived a divided life for many years, and in so doing did great damage to my conflicted soul. I am learning the value of inner integrity, coming to embrace all that is within me, that good, the bad and the ugly.
“Wholeness does not mean perfection,” points out Palmer, “it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” My divided life ‘not only has hurt me, but those around me, including my wife, children and the people I have served as a Lutheran pastor. Having been a people pleaser all my life has cause me to live a divided life, motivated by the fear of failure and rejection. These patterns were learned early in my life. “As teenagers and young adults, we learned that self-knowledge counts for little on the road to workplace success. What counts is the ‘objective’ knowledge that empowers us to manipulate the world” (Palmer).
Now in these latter years I have come to see how vital “self-knowledge” is in living a life of integrity. While it is true that I have a long ways to go, in being a man of integrity, I know in my heart experience that I am living with more integrity. This is the result of my soul being less divided. I can live with what is there, knowing that by the grace of God I am a man in the process of gaining more integrity. It all goes back to the quote from Merton, “there is in all things….a hidden wholeness.” So in one sense I am still divided. I acknowledge that truth. But in Christ there is a hidden wholeness that I am slowly discovering. For that I am very thankful.
I close with these hopeful words for us men as we desire to live in wholeness rather then being divided in our souls and in our relationships. “Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. he is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too – the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.” (Colossains 3:3-4 – The Message ) I take heart in these words. There is a wholeness within me, because of my new life in Christ. It is still rather obscure, because I am a work in progress. With the help of Jesus more and more of this wholeness can become manifest in my daily life. Some day the struggle with a divided soul and lifestyle will be over. Till that day I trust Jesus to bring forth his life in me.