Journey Toward Wholeness
by Frederick Buechner
"All his life long, wherever Jesus looked he saw the world not in terms simply of its brokenness-a patchwork of light and dark calling forth in us now our light, now our dark-but in term of the ultimate mystery of God's presence buried in it like a treasure buried in a field... To be whole, I believe, is to see the world like that. To see the world like that, as Jesus saw it, is to be whole. And sometimes I believe that even people like you and me see it like that. Sometimes even in the midst of our confused and broken relationships with ourselves, with each other, with God, we catch glimpses of that holiness and wholeness that is not ours by a long shot and yet is part of who we are. "
The world floods in on all of us. The world can be kind, and it can be cruel. It can be beautiful, and it can be appalling. It can give us good reason to hope and good reason to give up all hope. It can strengthen our faith in a loving God, and it can crush our faith. In our lives in the world, the temptation is always to go where the world takes us, to drift with whatever current happens to be running strongest. When good things happen, we are in heaven; when bad things happen, we are in hell. When the world strikes out at us, we strike back, and when one way or another the world blesses us, our spirits soar. Do we all know how just the weather can affect our state of mind for good or ill, how just getting stuck in a traffic jam can ruin an afternoon that in every other way is so beautiful it dazzles the heart. We are in constant danger of being, not actors in the drama of our own lives, but reactors. The fragmentary nature of our experience shatters us into fragments. Instead of being whole, most of the time we are in pieces, and we see the world in pieces, full of darkness at one moment and full of light the next.
It is in Jesus, of course, and in the people whose lives have been deeply touched by Jesus, as well as in ourselves at those moments when we also are deeply touched by him, that we see another way of being human in this world, which is the way of wholeness. When we glimpse that wholeness in others, we recognize it immediately for what it is, and the reason we recognize it, I believe, is that, no matter how much the world shatters us to pieces, we carry inside us a vision of wholeness that we sense is our true home and that beckons to us.
It is what Saint Paul means by saying that the deepest undercurrent of all creation is the current that seeks to move us toward maturity, to the measure of the stature of what he calls the fullness of Christ.
Picture Jesus at the Last Supper: he had every reason to believe that the end was upon him, and we see him looking around at his friends who will all betray him and saying, "Peace I leave with you," he says, when you would have thought he had no peace at all anywhere. "My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27).
The kind of peace that the world gives is the peace we experience when for a little time the world happens to be peaceful. It is a peace that lasts for only as long as the peaceful time lasts, because as soon as the peaceful time ends, the peace ends with it. The peace that Jesus offers, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the things that are going on at the moment when he offers to give it, which are for the most part tragic and terrible things. It is, instead, a peace beyond the reach of the tragic and terrible. It is a profound and inward peace that sees with unflinching clarity the tragic and terrible things that are happening and yet is not shattered by them. It is a peace that looks out at the friends, whom he loves enough to be concerned more for their frightened and troubled hearts than he is for his own, and yet his love for his friends is no more where his peace comes from than his impending torture and death are where his peace will be destroyed. The place that his peace comes from is not the world but something whole and holy within himself, which sees the world also as whole and holy because deep beneath all the broken and unholy things that are happening in it, even as he speaks, Jesus sees what he calls the kingdom of God.
All his life long, wherever Jesus looked he saw the world not in terms simply of its brokenness-a patchwork of light and dark calling forth in us now our light, now our dark-but in terms of the ultimate mystery of God's presence buried in it like a treasure buried in a field. It is not just that the Kingdom is like a pearl of great price, a mustard seed, leaven. It is indeed like them in ways that Jesus suggests in his parables, but it is also within them, as it is also within us. Pearls, seeds, fields, leaven, the human heart, all of them carry within them something of the holiness of their origin. It is the wholest and realest part of their reality and of ours. To be whole, I believe, is to see the world like that. To see the world like that, as Jesus saw it, is to be whole. And sometimes I believe that even people like you and me see it like that. Sometimes even in the midst of our confused and broken relationships with ourselves, with each other, with God, we catch glimpses of that holiness and wholeness that is not ours by a long shot and yet is part of who we are.
There is treasure buried in the field of every one of our days, even the bleakest or dullest, and it is our business, as we journey, to keep our eyes peeled for it.
Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote:
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
It is our business, as we journey, to keep our hearts open to that, to the bright-winged presence of the Holy Ghost within us and the Kingdom of God among us, until, little by little, compassionate love begins to change from a moral exercise, from a matter of gritting our teeth and doing our good deed for the day, into a joyous, spontaneous, self-forgetting response to the most real aspect of all reality, which is that the world is holy because God made it and so is every one of us as well. To deny that reality is to exist as a stranger in a world of strangers. To live out of and toward that reality is, little by little, to become whole.