Wholeness is the goal. Wholeness is a function of integrity, congruity, at-one-ment with ourselves, and with each other. It is the hardest thing. To say “God is one,” is to say all we need to say about God. When God speaks to Moses, and Moses asks the name of God, so that he, Moses, might tell the people who told him to go to Egypt to rescue the people, God said, “Tell them I Am Who I Am sent you.” God is one. God is who God is. And, we are to be as God.
“You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” says Jesus in Matthew 5:48. He means whole, seamless, fully integrated, complete, so that who we are on the inside is who we show ourselves to be on the outside. The Spiritual Journey is the work of integration, reconciliation. We live to be who we are—to know who we are—to be transparent to ourselves.
God at one with God; we are to be at one with ourselves, and with each other. This doesn’t mean identical twinsies with everyone. It means recognizing that all of us together—with each of us being who we are individually and personally—are more God-like than one of us alone. It takes the integration of all those differences to produce a whole that is worth having.
The idea of Jesus as my own personal best invisible friend, who died for me, who saves me, who pilots me, fails quite completely to take into account Jesus’ words, “Wherever two or three are gathered, I will be there.” Another place the Bible is misquoted in this regard is the phrase “The kingdom of God is within you.” A better translation is “among you.” The kingdom is among us all waiting for us to recognize it, and live together in ways that exhibit it.
It is the community that is God in the world. If we are going to bring God to life, we have to bring community to life. The right kind of community. The right kind of community recognizes that the kingdom of God is found among the individual members of the community, and helps each person make the connection with that larger “kingdom” in which we live and move as fish in the sea.
The right kind of community is a community of innocence, with no agenda in mind beyond requiring us to be true to ourselves while remaining in respectful touch with one another, particularly those who aren’t like us. This is not easy on either score. We cannot be true to ourselves (Which requires congruence, integrity, living in ways that are integral to, and aligned with, that which is deepest, best and truest about us), and we can’t stay in touch either with those who are, and are not, like us without denying some essential aspect of ourselves.
Being true to ourselves while staying in touch with one another is the fundamental requirement of the right kind of community, necessitating the right kind of intimacy, and the right kind of vulnerability—the right kind of awareness, and the right kind of boundaries. The Rumi observation applies: “If you are not here with us in good faith, you are doing terrible damage.”
We have to know when community is possible, and when it is not, and refuse to waste our time trying to develop something that cannot be. Sometimes, we have to walk away, leaving the dead to bury the dead. It is very important to give toxic personalities a wide berth. Do not waste your time with those people who kill your soul. Get quickly away from deadly company. If you are ever going to listen to anything I say, listen to this. Get away from the company of those who are the walking dead, who suck the life right out of you. Get out of that town. And, shake the dust off your sandals as a sign against them, because they aren’t the kind of people with whom it is possible to establish community, and be alive.
We are always thinking it’s our fault, our responsibility, our burden to make community happen. We can’t make relationship happen, much less community. We are always giving things up for the sake of relationship. We are always being asked to like things we don’t like, and not-like things we do like. Every bad relationship you have ever been in, at some point has said something along the lines of, “If you loved me, you would like sailing.” Or, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t like horses.” We think being in relationship with another person means being like the other person, becoming one with the other person as in becoming lost in the other person, so that no one, not even you and the other person, know where you stop and the other person starts. Oneness does not mean we lose our identity, our perspective, our particular—and peculiar—take on things. We do not stop being who we are. Right relationship enables us to become who we are. It gives us ourselves. It doesn’t take ourselves away from us.
At this point it in this essay, it all begins to flow together, and gets wonderfully messy. Language becomes a severe impediment because it is necessarily linear, and I can only say one thing at a time—but what is to be said is like a swirl of colors, or a wonderful blend of solids and liquids, like a margarita, say, with lime, lemon, tequila, triple sec, salt and a frosted glass all coming together to delight and amaze. You lose the magnificence of it if you just listen to someone talk about a margarita, listing the ingredients, one at a time, and asking you to imagine what he, what she, is talking about. And, you make a joke of a margarita if you separate the ingredients, and ingest one at a time, linear fashion, like language.
This spirituality business is exactly like enjoying a margarita. There should be a rule, no talk, just drink. Bottoms up! And, if I were half the bartender I’m cracked up to be, I’d take my camera in hand right now and walk to the Canadian Rockies, leaving you to your own devices. You are not stupid. You can figure it out. You are at this point in your life, after all. You’ve come this far on your own. You can do the rest of it. Besides, you are practically there already.
The magic of relationship does not make either person dependent upon relationship. To make either person dependent is to make that person needy, is to make that person an invalid, is to make that person in-valid, is to rob that person of her, of his, self, interests, point of view, personhood. Not what relationship is about. Right relationship connects the other with, establishes the other on, grounds the other in, the goodness of her, of his, own person, of her, of his, own being. It takes two, or more, “I’s” to make a “We.” And it takes a “we” to bring each other, and what has always been called God to life in the world.
Now, there is compromise, and sacrifice, and a giving up of self, a handing over of self, for the sake of that which is more than we could ever be alone. Marriage and parenthood will kill you. Again and again. The old theme of death and resurrection is very much a part of every right relationship, of every community, and I am not suggesting that we can enter into relationship, into community, with one another without dying, and we will have to talk about the nature of that death—remember the margarita metaphor!
The kind of death relationship calls you—requires you—to die, is a giving, not a taking. One person does not do all the dying, does not die for the sake of the other always and forever, but all die for the sake of relationship. Here’s the other part of the deal: The commitment is to the relationship, not the other person. And, one more part of the deal: At stake here is not the relationship, but our own becoming, our own selfhood. The relationship is the doorway, the threshold, to selfhood. The dying is really a birthing. The giving is really a receiving. And, here is the final part for now of the deal: It has to be completely voluntary.
Voluntary offering what is needed to the relationship is quite different from being compelled to hand it over. We cannot be hurled into relationship, or drafted into relationship, or forced, or required to be in relationship. But, the other side of it is that we really can’t help ourselves, either. We have to be “in relationship,” in the right kind of relationship, because something within us knows that’s where the life is, and we are lost without it. If we know what we are doing, we will pay any price, make any sacrifice, for the “pearl of great price,” which is our own self, our own soul, which is buried in the depths of relationship, waiting for us to have what it takes to claim the treasure.