Dim light, cool chill of a concrete floor, hurrying students. Music instruments, fingered melodies, dance leotards, silent stretches. The not-quite-damp, not-quite musty scent of a place that seldom sees light, the hum of muffled voices as the audience takes their seats, the almost-tangible feeling of intermingled nerves and excitement.
I’m no professional performer, but like most people, I’ve spent some time backstage over my career as a student. It’s a bit ironic because I hated being on stage (it’s still intimidating, but it does lose the “I will die” feeling over time), and while being backstage was better, it was also the place where you warmed up your body or fingers for being on stage while attempting to cool down your nerves before you had step out into the light and face actual people. But c’est la vie. If you choose to dance, you will dance. If you choose to play music, you will play music. And you might as well accept that there must be some dreaded stage time in there somewhere.
But during these character-and-courage-building experiences, we find something interesting. There’s an element of near-perfection on stage (or at least the relentless pursuit of it). We only notice when things go wrong. Hours of rehearsal lead to a real-time performance, hopefully ending in a rousing burst of applause. Then we gracefully retreat backstage, where we take off the costume and put on our everyday street clothes and breathe a big sigh of relief.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that. But here lies the twist. Much of the time, we also try to live life in the same way.
We have costumes for every scenario in life. As long as no one sees our less-than-perfect interior, and as long as we’re perfectly rehearsed, everything’s grand. The “us” we want people to see is lived on stage. The “us” we really are is lived backstage, and “never the twain shall meet”.
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But what if the twain did meet? What if, instead of trying to project the perfect image in fear of being rejected, we focused on becoming the same whole, beautiful person all the way through?
I went years of my life without really thinking about what it means to be a wholehearted person. Maybe it seems funny now. But we go so much of our lives playing make-believe, putting on a costume and attempting to act out a few moments of near-perfection on stage and then returning to the green room and revealing the fact that we’re actually not nearly as whole as we pretend to be.
And it made me wonder. What does it actually mean to be a wholehearted person, on stage as well as off?
2 Chronicles 16:9a says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is whole toward Him.” Another translation of that last phrase is “those whose heart is completely His.”
Those whose heart is completely His. Whole toward Him.
Isn’t this the work God is doing in our world? In our lives? In our souls? Making us whole? Restoring things that are shattered and broken back to the way they’re supposed to be? Call me funny, but that seems like a very good thing.
So why is it so hard for us to cooperate with that work?
There are probably a lot of reasons, but these three in particular have resonated with me, and I wonder if they resonate with you also.
- Sometimes we don’t realize we need healing.
- Sometimes we know we need healing but we think it’s impossible.
- And sometimes we know we need healing, and that it’s possible to be whole, but we aren’t sure how to get there.
First, sometimes we don’t realize we need healing. I get this. For example, there was a long stretch of my life where I didn’t even realize that I had developed some not-super-healthy coping mechanisms to deal with hard emotions (numbing, anyone?). I looked around and thought, you know, I’m doing pretty good.
Pretty good is not whole.
It wasn’t until I got to the point where I was so lonely and tired that I could no longer suppress emotion that I realized, oops, that’s not good. This is what I’m doing, and it’s definitely not good for me.
Sometimes it takes a really hard life situation to smack us into reality and make us realize the gaps we’ve got going on. (Note, a hard situation doesn’t necessarily mean that your choices have gotten you in a pickle, so to speak. It might just be a broken-world hard situation that God is turning to goodness in your life.)
But what if we didn’t just wait for life to smack us before we start seeking wholeness? What if we started asking God now to show us what He wants to do in our lives and where He wants to work? What if we asked wise, wholehearted people in our lives what they see — and took their responses seriously?
At this point, we often realize, yikes, “I’m messed up.” (BTW good news, it’s a universal human condition, everyone’s messed up whether they admit it or not.) “And I need wholeness. And I don’t think I can get there.”
I’ve wrestled with clinical obsessive compulsive disorder for long stretches of adolescence and young adult life. I’ve tried and tried and tried to outsmart, outwit, outmaneuver, outlast my own mind — and come up wanting. There have been times where I just collapsed on my bed, weary and worn out, wanting desperately to be different and feeling entirely unable. God, if You want me to love You with all my mind, why is this so hard?
But you know what, maybe that’s the point at which we’re ready to let God start making us whole. The point at which we realize that for every human on the planet, wholeness — the kind of wholeness that starts in the deepest places of our soul and springs up into every corner of life — is functionally out of our reach. All the self-help, positive-mantra, good-energy methods we come up with do not and cannot and will never bring complete wholeness.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.Romans 7:15, 18b ESV
This is where the world has to stop. But oh, what a gift that the Christian does not!
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!Romans 7:25a
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all,
therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore,
we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:14-17
We cannot make ourselves whole, but Christ does. He is about the business of making us new, of redemption, of reaching into the most broken, painful parts of our lives and bringing beauty and new life from the ashes.
Which takes us to the next point, where we know we need healing, and that it is possible to be whole, but we don’t even know where to start.
Your journey most likely starts in a different place than mine. I have different challenges than you. I have different experiences, different patterns, different difficulties, different sins. The steps we take might be different. But we’re all called to take those steps, letting God do His sanctifying work in us and making us look more and more like Jesus. Maybe we need confession. Maybe we need to quit isolating ourselves. Maybe we need correction. Maybe we need counseling.
The beautiful thing is, God is always faithful to lead us. If you’re not sure where to start, or what your heart needs to begin becoming whole, ask Him. Ask Him to show you the patterns of your mind that aren’t fully His. The patterns of your heart. Your lifestyle. Your soul.
And perhaps the next most important thing is, do this in community. With those who will be iron sharpening iron to you. Who will support and hold up your arms like Hur and Aaron did for Moses. Who will call you to action, call you out, and call you up toward Christ. Find wholehearted people who you want your life to be like and spend time with them.
Last year at a writer’s conference one of the keynotes delivered an incredible session on Moses and being faithful with what God has put in your hands. And then he said this, and as a friend of mine from CA says, it’s been bouncing around taking up room rent-free in my mind ever since:
Choose your hard.
It’s hard to root out old patterns. It’s hard to challenge the status quo. It’s hard to quit doing stuff that we’ve been doing for so long.
It’s hard to admit that we’ve messed up, so we try to hide and cover the failures and keep projecting a mirage that doesn’t need the healing we so desperately do.
It’s hard to acknowledge that there’s a widening chasm gap between where we are and where we should be. So we try to just keep building bigger bridges rather than getting rid of the chasm in the first place.
But here’s the deal. As Christians, we don’t get a pass on hard (and neither does the rest of the world). We’re fallen people living in a broken world. We just have to choose our hard.
Choosing to believe that even when our mistakes hurt deep, God can redeem our stories, and choosing to accept our scars, and believe we’re worth being loved, and fight for healing and truth and hope in the day-in, day-out wrestling match with our human nature, is hard.
Believing that we can’t be imperfect and that no one can see our failures, and choosing to stay in the shadows and never move past our scars and into the wholeness Christ offers, is hard.
Choose your hard.
Choosing to hand everything over to Christ, and to let go of the things we find comfort and release in, and to give up our pride and choose humility even when it’s like swallowing rotten vinegar, is hard.
Choosing to stay enslaved to the things we’re hanging onto, and to forsake freedom, and to hang onto our ways until the only thing that makes us let go is being broken, is hard.
Choose your hard.
Choosing wholeheartedness, and choosing to run after Christ with our whole heart and mind and soul and body even when it costs us deeply, is hard.
Choosing to think we can carry the weight of the world on our own shoulders, and to stubbornly refuse healing, and to choose to live and believe and hope with only half a heart, is hard.
Choose your hard.
So maybe it’s time for us to step backstage for a moment (or a hot minute). Let our eyes adjust to the dim light, feel the coolness beneath our feet. Quiet the sounds of the audience beyond the curtain.
Look around. Study the costumes hanging back here and who we’re trying to make others think we are. Consider the make-up palettes and what we’re trying to cover up. Glance over our lines, or our piece, or our routine, and contemplate which parts truly line up with the values deep inside.
And then, hearing the call of our Director, step on stage and into the spotlights — as we are, allowing Him to make us the same whole, beautiful person in His image all the way through.
Realizing that we all need healing, and wholeness is totally possible, and that Jesus is the One leading us there.
Letting Him transform us into someone whose heart is completely His.
This week, may we be brave enough to seek wholeness.
Victoria Schurter is the VP of Content and Development for Unbound. An Unbound graduate, Victoria has served in a variety of roles including student leadership, coaching, and in the Business and Leadership program. She is passionate about equipping young adults to recognize their potential, to know God, and make Him known in daily life.
When she’s not working on an Unbound project, you can find her scribbling on a novel, playing a favorite instrument, riding horses, watching a sunset, or dreaming up some new adventure that absolutely includes the Pacific coastline. One of the best parts of her world is walking alongside her fellow Unbound students as they make an eternal impact in their generation.