One of my favorite blogs to read is Deeper Story. The writers associated with this site talk about church and trying to live faithfully through story—usually tough stories. Not easy stories. These aren’t your usual Sunday School stories, but they are the stories you long to hear during small group. This is like an honest online small group.
When I returned from my summer sabbatical of all things online, my blog catch-up list was really really long. Honestly, I deleted most of them. But this Deeper Story title caught my eye: “Teach your children they are whole.”
I love the word “whole.” I didn’t even need to read the post to know that I would love whatever this blogger would have to say.
In grad school, I did a word-study on the word “perfect,” as it is used in Matthew 5:48—“Be perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect.” In this verse, the Greek word for perfect is teleios. According to Strong’s Concordance, Teleios means “brought to its end, finished” or “wanting nothing necessary to completeness” or “perfect.” Perfect might be an easy one-word substitute, but in our perfectionist culture, it has the wrong connotation. “Be complete, as my father in heaven is complete,” does the job, but I think the word “whole” is a better English word for our time and culture.
“Be whole, as my father in heaven is whole.”
In the “Teach your children they are whole” blog post, writer Elizabeth is responding to a Tweet from a theologian, in which he said, “Teach your children they are broken. Deeply broken.” In her post, Elizabeth wrote that she was shaking as she typed her piece—she was that shaken by the tweet and the theology it represents (as were many of the respondents on Twitter).
Elizabeth explains why she teaches her children that they are whole and loved, first and foremost, before any other theology.
At my Christian college, my friends talked about brokenness a lot. We even sang about it: “Brokenness, brokenness, is what I long for / Brokenness is what I need. / Brokenness, brokenness, is what you want from me.” It helped if you cried as you sang it. Then you knew that you really meant it—you were spiritual enough.
The song this verse comes from is a song of surrender. The chorus sings, “So take my life, and form it / Take my mind, transform it. / Take my will, conform it. / To yours, to yours, O Lord.” It’s not a bad sentiment at all. The things we wrote into the song that we wanted, however, I’m not convinced were completely Biblical.
When I was student teaching, I was broken. As a new teacher, I felt completely inadequate and overwhelmed by my job and my students. I cried nearly every night. I remember having conversations with my friends about how I felt broken, and how this must be what God wants us to feel. Broken. Inadequate. A failure. At the end of my capabilities. And I was told by Christian phrases that where we end, there God begins… so this place of broken inadequacy was a place to be desired.
So I lived there, in a broken, inadequate mindset for the next four years.
Two things brought me out of it: one person naming my brokenness “depression” and yoga. Yoga taught me what it meant to be on the path to wholeness.
So, yes. Teach your children they are whole. Teach your students they are whole. Teach yourself you are whole.
“The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” –Westminster Catechism
“The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” – St. Irenaeus
P.S. Perhaps in a follow-up post, I will talk about the role of brokenness in faith—and that “whole” does not necessarily mean seeking solely self-fulfillment. I can see how these things could be misconstrued. Remember that everything is in dialogue and probably needs nuance. This postscript is the beginning of my nuance.
Be whole, friends.