Posted by: alliehope | December 11, 2008

Integrity: A Rant and a Prayer

Unless you’ve been living with your head in the sand the past 24 to 36 hours, you’ve undoubtedly heard by now the sad tale of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

I am at once cynically satisfied (after all, sometimes I wonder, is “honest politician” an oxymoron?) and deeply disturbed by these revelations. The cynical part of me thinks that he had it coming to him for being so stupid, and that the prosecutors in charge of the case throw the book at him.

However, the deeply disturbed part of me looks at this tale of woe and thinks, there but for the grace of God go I. I am reminded that this kind of depravity is what I am capable of when alienated from God. I am cut off from the very Source of morality and truth, and can very easily justify sinful decisions that harm myself and others, and tear at the sometimes delicate fabric of the Divine-human relationship that is supposed to be the sustaining force of my life.

I hear the words of James echoing about how the wisdom that comes from above is exactly the opposite of the wisdom of the world (James 3:13-18). It is this heavenly wisdom that is the core of integrity, the quality of living purely and peaceably before God and others.

I look at the actions of Blagojevich and shudder, knowing, as I said, that I am capable of those kinds of actions if I do not keep watch over my heart, since it is from the heart that both words and actions flow (see Matthew 15:10-20).

So, then, what is the remedy? What of this rant/self-examination? Integrity, I’m finding, comes through prayer, accountability, and disciplined study of the Word of God. (It’s been said that the Bible is the only book that when we read it, it returns the favor and reads us.) It comes from study of those who lived lives of great purpose and purity, namely Christ Himself.

It comes also from pursuit of knowledge, knowledge of what integrity, this word I’ve been throwing around, really is, and applying it to my life. Maybe reframing it a little bit: Henry Cloud calls “character” (another word for integrity) “the courage to meet the demands of reality”.

The word itself comes from an ancient Latin understanding of wholeness, of unity within oneself. The fractured person is therefore to be understood to be without integrity since he or she is not whole. This understanding is closer to the reality that I’m peeking into here, that of how fractures within the soul are what give rise to sin.

These fractures come from many directions, but they have the same wellspring: alienation from God. I mentioned that I’ve seen this so often in my own life it’s ridiculous. One needs only to read Romans 1:18-32 to get a clear picture on how this works. (Hint: Pay especially close attention to verses 18-26 and 28-32). And to know that all of humanity’s in that boat? No wonder Blagojevich did what he did!

This alienation from God, though, is not humankind’s final condition, however. God, in His mercy, provided Jesus Christ to reconcile us to Him, and rebuild our fractured lives through His shed blood on the cross. It is only through accepting this costly sacrifice that we can find real healing, and real transformation into the what we were meant to be all along: the image of God, conformed to Christ.

When we are conformed to Christ, we will naturally act in integrity. After all, He never sinned, never broke a promise, never lied, never tried to use people to His own advantage. Please, please, please, for the love of all things sacred (and maybe a few things profane), don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we’ll never sin. After all, to err is human, and no matter how vigilant we are, we will all wrestle with the still-fractured elements of our lives, still make bad decisions from those places that have not yet been brought into submission to Christ.

I am saying, however, that those places can be restored, and will be restored as we surrender to Him. They will be restored through prayer, through study, through accountability (and through, at least in my case), a few swift kicks in the butt. They are restored through, as the AA Fifth Step tells us, “Admitt(ing) to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”.

After all, it’s the truth that sets us free, since in the truth, we see the fractured places in our lives, and the destruction we have caused when we have lived from those places. We are then able to move forward from those places, confident that God is using even them to bring others who are still in pain, still fractured, closer to Him. We can give of ourselves more freely, confident that God can use our stories of pain and brokenness to reach souls still in darkness.

Ultimately, that compassionate nature is what emerges when we live in integrity. We’re able to see wrong for what it is, and see the possibilities for healing from it, both in our lives, and in the lives of others. While we do not lower our moral standards, we do not cling to them self-righteously, condemning those still fallen. This is what Jesus Christ modeled for us, and what He wants to conform us to as His Spirit transforms us from the inside out.

A Prayer

Father, as still more disturbing revelations come out of yet another politician consumed by power and greed, and seduced by authority, I find the revelations holding a mirror to my soul, revealing what I’m capable of–the same kind of corruption and defilement. Yet I give thanks, that You are working within me to conform me to the image of Christ, showing me the depth of my sin, and the depth of Your grace.

Thank You, Father, that none of us can ever fall farther than Your grace can reach. Thank You that You sent Your Son to take our sin, our hell, the death we deserve, and gave us Life Eternal–not just in some far-off heaven, but in the here and now! Thank You that we no longer need fear your condemnation, but can receive Your tender calling–calling us home, to repentance, to humility, to transformation.

I pray, Father, in this season of Advent, this season of returning light, that the light of Your Son would shine into the darkest corners of our souls, revealing those places that still are not submitted to You, those places that are still fractured. Help us, Father, to let go of those places, to surrender them to Your healing and cleansing, that as You heal them, You are transforming us, little by little, in ways that we might not truly grasp until we see You face to face in Your heavenly kingdom. Grant us the grace, Holy Father, to continue pursuing You, pursuing holiness, until that day, and use us to draw others into that pursuit–the only race worth running. In Jesus’ name, amen.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen. +

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