Word of the Week: Integration

I’ve been thinking about what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed lately. That passage in Deuteronomy where the people of God are instructed to “love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul and with all their mind and with all their strength” which Jesus expands on in Mark with the injunction to “love my neighbor as myself.

I think I was always under the impression that I was at least a three, if not four-part creature: spirit, soul and body or heart, mind, soul and strength. Either way, I remember believing that there was a part of me created to relate to God. That would be either the spirit or the heart. The rest of me was pretty much up to me to do as I pleased (or so I thought) in the absence of any teaching about those areas.

Questions such as “are you growing spiritually?” probably served to reinforce this division, not to mention a sermon or two during my college years which seemed to want to excise those other more lowly, more human parts. The body was necessary for the time being to house the spirit/heart upon which all effort was devoted to growing and strengthening. The emotional and intellectual parts were more or less necessary evils (okay, that phrasing was never used but again, I’m talking about my impressions which pretty much formed my thinking) to survive in this present world.

So what do we do with God’s commands to love him with all the parts of our being? Shouldn’t my walk with God inform all areas of my life? How do I love God with all my heart (a good friend suggested to me last year that the heart is that volitional part of us, i.e. choices).  How do I love Him with all my soul (the relational/emotional aspect)? With all my mind? And with all my strength? Is it possible to compartmentalize my relationship with God to one area of my being when he created it all and intends it all to bring glory to him?

So I love this word “integration” these days. It reminds me that God is aware of, interested in and present with us in all areas of our lives, and longs to bring all of us together into his intended wholeness.

The Israelites were encouraged to write these words from Deuteronomy on their hands and foreheads as well as the doorposts of their houses. For me, it’s easier to let the words and images of this song by Lincoln Brewster run through my mind – check it out: