How Life Runs Through Me

Whether we are talking about psychology or spirituality or healing or some combination, the word “broken” or “brokenness” seems to come up.  The online dictionary uses descriptions like “damaged”, “no longer in one piece”, and “no longer in working order”.  “Broken” is a word people with disabilities hear in phrases applied to them like “damaged goods” and “non-functional” and “unable to work”.  I think everyone probably considers themselves broken somewhere along the path of life.  Whether it happens with a loss of a relationship and we have a broken heart; the loss of a job and we have a broken spirit; or an injury and we have a broken leg, everyone understands the idea of being broken. And who among us has not heard and sometimes believed our brokenness arose from some bad action by ourselves in a current or previous incarnation or by our parents or ancestors.  Some call the bad actions sin, some call it erroneous thoughts and some call it karma. It is an uncomfortable interpretation found in many religious traditions. In the ninth chapter of John, the disciples question Jesus about a man’s blindness: “ ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.’ ”

I have been reflecting on the idea of brokenness, staring at a web of fault lines tea stain reveals in a cup from my grandmother. Decades of tea held to the lips of women in my family are the history of this cup.  I looked at my hand holding the cup and noticed the web of lines created by my veins.  Veins and arteries (usually not visible), large and small, carry blood throughout our bodies.  Veins are the tracks of how life runs through my body.  And it occurred to me that much of what others, or even I, consider brokenness is simply how life runs through me. 

I can break a bone and it does not mean my soul, the essence of who I am is broken.  I believe every part of my humanity can be broken, not working, or flawed and there is a divine part of me that is as whole as the moment it was created in the mind of the Creator. I can be missing limbs and have my brain re-wired and need assistance with basic functions and still, within my being-ness, I am whole.  What we call broken is simply how life runs through me and according to my beliefs (which you may or may not share) how life runs through me is how God’s work is revealed in this lifetime. 

It’s easy to gather a list of things in my life I have thought of as part of my brokenness: my dwarfism, a dysfunctional family and early abuse, the death of my father as a child and the death of my child as a young parent, health challenges and depression.  It doesn’t seem to matter if the condition or event or thing was a part of how I was born or came along as I made my way through life.  As I breathe into reflecting on how each of these changes me and shapes who I am in the world and as I remember I am made with the same divine imprint as everyone else, I see the tracks of how life runs uniquely through me.  I am still whole with a Radical Wholeness that is untouched by any condition of my humanity or my human experience.  I may not work the way others believe I should or could and yet, life continues to breathe me into existence. I continue the work I perceive is mine to do in the world, including this exploration of the intersection of spirituality and disability and the radical idea of wholeness within each of us. I continue to tap into that wholeness to heal through the physical and emotional conditions which make me feel less than who I came here to be. Sometimes that healing turns out the way I imagined it would and sometimes healing leads me to an entirely new place in life.

Temple Grandin spoke in Philadelphia this year at a conference on Autism.  She was quoted as saying we need all the creativity people bring, including the different way the brain works in people labelled with autism. There are different ways of hearing and seeing and thinking and expressing and communicating and when you put them all together it creates a magnificent wholeness each one of us is a part of.  Life runs through us fitting together a million pieces that might appear broken until you have a stained glass window or a Tiffany lamp. It is a very limited view of one tiny piece that sees different as nonfunctional. Perhaps if we all gave less attention to judging brokenness in ourselves and others, we would have more time to focus on the wholeness of life working through us.  Without trying to measure success or productivity, we could appreciate the love and peace and creativity each one brings to the world as life runs through them. Perhaps we would have a new appreciation of the powerful healings unfolding around us every day. We might even glimpse healing pieces being fit together within us.

The dictionary has one more definition of broken that is a separate line: having given up all hope.  Perhaps this kind of broken is the most challenging and yet, these situations give me the most evidence for an innate Radical Wholeness waiting to be drawn upon.  Albert Einstein is attributed the quote: “Adversity introduces a man to himself”.   When the outer world seems to fail us we are forced to turn within.  There we discover resources we might have been unaware of.  We discover that essence of wholeness that can sustain us through the time of darkness, into a new version of ourselves, into a healing transformation of how we see ourselves or others.  It’s not a magic potion or spell or anything someone can give us—it is our own Radical Wholeness to discover and utilize as life runs through us. 

Do you see yourself as broken or do you see the tracks of life running through you? Perhaps more importantly, can you touch the Radical Wholeness that is within you? Do you believe the Radical Wholeness within you is doing Its spiritual work through you? Tap into your Radical Wholeness and allow divine life to run through you.

How life runs through me does not alter the Radical Wholeness within.
Photo caption: image of hand with vein lines holding a tea cup with roses

How it started

Life is full of opportunities. Some of them we choose, some seem thrust upon us and some might be a combination of origins. I was born with a rare form of dwarfism. On some level we can argue I chose that or my soul made that choice but it was a reality that shaped my life from day one. It feels like I came into the world with a sense of spirituality. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know some power I called God or Spirit. It didn’t come from any church I attended because I wasn’t comfortable with the ways they talked about a judging and condemning God. It may have come from my father who was a spiritual seeker in the Cherokee tradition. In 1985 I discovered a faith tradition called Unity. I can talk about how that discovery unfolded at some other point. For now, the next turning point was my ordination as a Unity minister in 2004. Now I find myself clergy in a new thought tradition that values healing and I identify as a person affected by disability. So what, exactly, is wholeness? We talk a lot about spiritual wholeness and expressing wholeness in our humanity. What does wholeness expressing in our humanity look like? I began to question how my peers in disability advocacy viewed spirituality. Were they comfortable with how their clergy talked about stories in the Bible about healing and the people asking for healing? I questioned how my tradition might avoid discussions of disability and I questioned how other traditions viewed those impacted by disability. To open a discussion within my own tradition I wrote an article for the Unity Magazine titled Radical Wholeness. Writing an article was clearly my choice and I hoped it would be an opportunity to share a new perspective. Honestly I was endeavoring to tip some spiritual cows and challenge some of the language we have taken for granted.

If you ask most people what wholeness looks like in humanity you will get a description of an able-bodied, at least average intelligence person. We can be open about gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. When you label a person “whole”, most people are not open to taking away those physical, mental and emotional characteristics we attribute to able-bodied. IF you are different than the “normative value” of size, shape and ability, then there is room for improvement. Traditionally in religion we might call that improvement healing.

Those who look to the Bible as a reference go to the verse in Genesis that declares humanity made in the “image and likeness of God”. For centuries we used that backwards to create an image of God based on humanity. Mystics have looked beyond a simple formula for humanity to perceive the image and likeness to be an essence of love, creativity and power that lies within each human being. While that essence is the same, we understand humanity to be designed with infinite variety so that no two beings are exactly the same. It occurred to me the infinite variety of human design did not fit with only one, prescribed picture of how that inner spiritual wholeness out-pictured in the body and experiences of each individual. What if the wholeness within could be expressed in persons lacking vision, missing a limb, unable to speak or unable to comprehend the math of 2 + 2? This is Radical Wholeness. The essence of all persons is the Oneness of Spirit. No one gets to judge how wholeness shows up in another person.

This is Radical Wholeness