This giant panda video reminds me in some ways of what entering 2023 looked like for me, but this panda is sliding backwards and later playfully rolls around in the snow. My experience felt more like I was facedown backsliding into 2023, and the Panda was sitting on me. OOF!
If you were able to watch or listen to our Saints for Slackers Season Finale, you know the traumatic experience that my husband and I have been facing and the epiphanies surrounding it. (If you haven’t had a chance yet, no worries, take a moment and skip to around the 58:00-minute mark to hear the story—it will provide the important context here.) Between travel, facing our mortality, dealing with the aftermath, and being the producer of our podcast that was on a 3-podcast per week schedule since Thanksgiving, I ended up only having two days of a break instead of the normal two weeks that I take annually to unplug, refresh, and spend with family.
Then my sweet uncle died, and it brought up so many memories of my dad—as those two were so close. Fresh grief, then coming off of such a traumatic experience amidst months of carrying the load for months in a stressful season left me feeling such deep exhaustion and depletion. Add in that I ended up getting into the worst fight ever with my husband on New Year’s Day, leaving more rawness—and not the way I’d hoped to set the tone for a new year. Thankfully, through prayer and communication, we have been healing and strengthening our relationship through it.
Yet amidst that, I was supposed to write about wholeness. Yeah, good one, God.
So I had to go back to that cute giant panda a few times. Watching him has been reminding me something important: it’s going to be messy, so remember to enjoy the ride. If you’re down in the cold dirt, roll around in it and make it count! That spirit of childlikeness is crucial to facing the difficulties of life—we must not lose our wonder, playfulness, and agility—which is to simply let God move us along whatever path we’re on by His grace. If that panda were trying to grasp and paw his way along, all that resistance would have created a completely different outcome and impeded his path.
As I’ve been reflecting on wholeness, I’ve pondered more on its opposite, brokenness. Brokenness is entirely familiar to me. I’ve been open about my trauma, and have spent 5+ years working through it in therapy. And I encounter it every day through the brokenness of others. I’m writing about it in my book, the infertility devotional I’ve been working on over the past few years. I now need to write a talk about it, too, as I was asked to present at women’s Lenten luncheon. But anytime we experience the opposite of something, the meaning becomes even deeper. So the poverty of my brokenness helps me to better experience the richness of wholeness in Christ.
We know the technical definition of wholeness, but as a refresher, the New Oxford dictionary says:
Wholeness was part of God’s original design, but thanks to original sin, we are unable to live in a state that is unbroken or undamaged in this life. But Christ came to save us, and through the waters of Baptism, Christ made unity and completeness in Him possible.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”Ephesians 1:11-12
This Scripture is the foundation of our 2023 Wholeness in Christ. It starts with the quintessential words that describe how we must approach anything and everything in life: “in Him.” In Christ, we find all we need. And in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we are reminded of the inheritance we have received in Christ. Salvation, heaven, is our inheritance, which is the ultimate form of wholeness. And before the foundation of the world, we were chosen by Him—called to be sons and daughters according to His purpose.
While our ultimate wholeness, union with Christ, is in heaven, we begin living our heaven while still on earth, so we can experience wholeness in this life too. To find that wholeness means that we must approach ourselves in the dimensions God created us: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. This is taking a holistic approach, and that is what our Little With Great Love team is going to focus this year’s content on. Finding wholeness in Christ holistically, in our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls.
Finding wholeness is different for a Christian. It’s not like the other religions where one must work hard on themselves to ascend to a better, higher version of oneself. In Christianity, we rely on Christ to do the work in us. In the homily at Mass yesterday, our Pastor gave the example of how to become less prideful. The paradox is that the more we try to focus on pride and try to rid ourselves of it, the more internally focused we become—and pride is all about an exaggerated love of self. So focusing on self is not diminishing self but increasing it. We must instead turn our eyes to Christ and focus on Him, and ask Him to help. Through prayer and grace, the work of humility can be brought about in us.
To find wholeness we must acknowledge our brokenness, yet not dwell in it. No, we must ask God to come and dwell in the broken places of our minds and hearts and illuminate the darkness. Come, Lord, make us a new creation in you. And the sacraments are so important for this journey, as they give us the strength we need to sustain us.
Wholeness is what our hearts long for—we want integration, peace, unity. The more that we look to Christ and encounter the person of Jesus in a true relationship, the more wholeness we find in Him. Wholeness is a journey that begins with Baptism and is fostered through prayer and the sacraments, where we build a relationship with Christ. As we journey, Christ sanctifies us so that we may become saints, and through that purification, we are being restored and made whole.
Our first program of 2023 will be a Lenten journey focused on becoming well in order to experience more wholeness in Christ. I invite you to sign up for our email list to be the first to hear the details and be able to sign up to journey with others to wellness in an effort to become more of who God created you to be, and experience wholeness in Christ.