Broken, Healed And Whole

In the fourth grade, at my request, I began studying the violin. For the first two years, my parents insisted that I practice in the room furthest from the family room. It was that bad!

Before investing in our own instrument, we decided that I should begin with a school-owned violin—kind of like giving that old beater car to your overly confident sixteen year old. Serious violinists purchase a shoulder rest to keep their violin in place under their chin. But at the beginning, I used a cheap sponge anchored by a rubber band.

At that time we owned a Dalmatian named “Rahab.” Strange name, great dog…for awhile, and she didn’t last long because she chewed everything in the house. My mom insisted I put my violin away after I was done practicing because of Rahab’s incessant search and destroy missions.

One evening in the middle of practicing, I ran down the stairs to say something to my parents. To be honest, I was probably looking for an excuse to avoid playing while the clock was ticking. Anyway, as I was walking up the stairs, I met Rahab prancing down the stairs with the sponge from my violin in her mouth—attached to the violin. Step by stop, the violin had bounced, face down, on the stairs. And laying beneath her spotted paws was the bridge from my violin, broken. If you’re unacquainted with the violin, the bridge supports the strings above the violin so the strings can be played and heard.

I was devastated. Yet I was also confident that God could do anything. So, I placed my instrument with the broken bridge back in my violin case, closed it, and placed it in the corner of my bedroom. Then I jumped on my bed and interceded to God on behalf of my violin. Never before had a fourth grader prayed so fervently.

“God, please heal my violin,” I pleaded. “In the name of Jesus, make my bridge new!”

Ten minutes later I jumped off my bed, opened the case and looked for a new instrument. But to my dismay, everything remained the same. That night, I went to bed, continuing in prayer. And the next morning, the bridge remained broken.

So, I resorted to Plan B. I grabbed the Elmer’s Glue from the kitchen ( I have no idea why we kept it there!) and I glued the two pieces together. Amazingly enough it held for the next two years.

My violin bridge wasn’t perfect, but it was whole.

We’re all Like That Broken Bridge

All of us are like that bridge from my old violin. Broken, and at times, barely holding it together.

Throughout Scripture, we read God’s command to “Be holy, because I am holy” (see Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2).

The Hebrew word for “holiness” (qodesh) means separate, sacred, or set apart. In my spiritual background, I listened to numerous sermons about the meaning of holiness, which could easily be defined by the words “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with girls who do.” Actually, the list of don’ts was much longer and included drinking, dancing, and listening to rock and roll.

The command to be holy was usually defined by our behavior. Forget about what’s going on inside, just get it right on the outside.

“Be (W)holy”

In recent years, though, certain biblical scholars have begun offering a different definition of holiness. They believe that the word really means “wholeness.” “Be whole as I am whole,” as God might be telling us.

My “healed” violin bridge wasn’t perfect, but it was whole—blemishes and all.

In my understanding of God, that seems to align with his character. The nature of God is to renew. In Jesus’ ministry, he called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” (the old definition of holiness) while focusing his ministry on healing the broken. At the end of the age, we read in Revelation 21 a loud voice bellowing “I am making everything new!”

When he calls us to live holy lives, God calls us to be whole. This understanding brings an entirely new perspective to my behavior. It begins with the inside and works its way out. The emphasis is on healing, not perfection.

All of us share elements of brokenness in our lives that affect the way we live: Anger and unforgiveness that spring from past offenses. Abuses that prompt unhealthy or even addictive behavior.

God’s nature is to heal and restore.

What does wholeness look like in your life?

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s thankful that God still heals.


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15 responses to “Broken, Healed And Whole

  1. Wholeness in my life looks like taking part in community no matter how I feel and sharing God’s love with others; remembering that God loves me and loved me before I did anything to deserve it.

  2. Georgie-ann

    The violin was one of the first public school instruments I took up (after 3rd grade plastic recorder/flutophone exposure),…I did actually persevere for a time, but the real flute won out handily, though only for a season,…the scratchiness of the beginner’s violin sound was simply more than I could bear myself, let alone everybody else in the house. Guitar suffered a similar rejection. The piano has superseded all challengers, but I’m glad to have learned at least a few musical “basics” pertaining to several various instrument types,…it makes getting along with them and playing with them quite a bit easier. I always tell new students how nice “the piano sound” is from the very beginning, especially if you don’t pound on the keys.

    Your other/actual point about healing, holiness and wholeness has been a longtime/longterm focus of “spirituality” and “knowing God” in the circles I come from. It’s always an on-going process as far as I can tell,…we grow from “glory to glory,”…

    2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

    It’s an endless topic, involving our “right relationship” with God, ourselves, others, life, and even “spiritual warfare.” We can trust God. His Word is always True. But the path to discerning the “ins and outs” of human brokenness, personal and historical, and to “dealing with problems,” and allowing the Holy Spirit to help us and lead us, corporately and individually, is not a simple “program” that we can just simply figure out and apply, and “get right” just like that. We will be challenged from the get-go (by “the enemy,” both without and within), but as we persevere (ascend), the view becomes more clear, and we begin to truly feel confirmed in our Faith, and in God Himself.

    “Pilgrim’s Progress” (Bunyan) and “Hinds’ Feet on High Places” (Hurnard) come to mind as classic reading that portray some of the inevitable drama that will accompany our journey to individual responsibility and closeness with God and His Kingdom realities becoming our realities as well.

    Happy Traveling!,…Hint: You can ALWAYS trust God (Who is stronger by a longshot), and you can NEVER trust the devil (who is a big-time loser and counterfeiter), but the trick sometimes is figuring out who is who, and what is what!,…Bottomline: in the end, it is always up to us how far we want to “go with God.” The support and confirming faith of others is wonderful, but there will be roads (both inner and outer) that will present us with the opportunity (and necessity!) of traveling “alone.” Mixed emotions often come into play, especially fear of the unknown, and this is quite normal really, although it does hold many of us back, at least for a season. Watching mama-bird pushing her babies out of the nest, and the “intelligence” that guides the functioning of the created world of instinct, we see that “life” is designed to call us to grow appropriately. God is calling us to grow as well. And, as He has said, “It is Good.”


  3. Barry

    Wholeness means knowing God’s love, acceptance and grace. It means un-doing the screwy theology I absorbed as a kid (some of it still hangs on), and pursuing a genuine, transparent friendship with God.

    • Linda

      Thats a lovely and thoughtful comment 🙂

      • Georgie-ann

        I also totally agree,…and it’s a beautiful truth expressed in a very satisfying nutshell! The mystery of our blessed oneness with Christ often begs proper description in words:

        Matthew 10:32 “Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me], I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him.”

        But for some of us, experience has also shown us that it’s not always just a simple “cake walk” (or light-bulb style revelation) to get there,….but perseverance furthers, and “if we faint not” the promises we inherit are certainly worth the journey,…

        Galatians 6:9 “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

        Hebrews 6:11,12
        11 “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

        Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

        No two fingerprints are alike, and our journeys with God are also destined to be unique.

    • Barry, sometime I’d love to listen to you share about the screwy theology (knowing your background) and how you’re un-doing it. Great insights, though.

      • Georgie-ann

        Michael,…I just thought to mention that “drawing near” to Christ, in God and in prayer, is itself a transforming process whereby we are often “freed”/lifted out of the externalized conditioning influences that may have tried to “point the way” but have also managed to hold back many from going deeper in God and finding some of the greater treasures of spiritual truth. Spiritual depth is always found by a personal process. “Good, Better & Best” can sometimes describe our “Christianization” processes,…or the levels of “depth of water” that we enter, as in Ezekiel 47:3-6.

        Exodus 3:5 “And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

        Hebrews 7:19 “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.”

        James 4:8 “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

        I find that in prayer I am lifted out of the “gravity and magnetic hold” of our habitual external earthly circumstances. And then God — after resting and refreshing me (or chasing away “dragons”!) — gently returns me to “life,” the external circumstances, for another “go around.” Through prayer we can enter into “holy ground” that we will find no other way, but too often it is left as “the road less travelled,” while we struggle to overcome the weights and pressures of this life on our own. We maybe should ask ourselves, “WHO (or what) is it that wants to keep me from ‘finding/meeting God’ in prayer?”

        Matthew 7:14 “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

        Revelation 21:5,6

        5 “And He Who is seated on the throne said, ‘See! I make all things new.’ … . 6 And He [further] said to me, ‘It is done! … To the thirsty I [Myself] will give water without price from the fountain (springs) of the water of Life.’ ”

        Revelation 22:17 “The [Holy] Spirit and the bride (the church, the true Christians) say, ‘Come!’ And let him who is listening say, ‘Come!’ And let everyone come who is thirsty [who is painfully conscious of his need of those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened]; and whoever [earnestly] desires to do it, let him come, take, appropriate, and drink the water of Life without cost.”

        It’s an open invitation to whomsoever wills!

        Revelation 22:17 “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him that heareth say, ‘Come.’ And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

      • Georgie-ann

        Here’s another idea for consideration: I’ve always wondered what Paul was referring to as “meat” (spiritually) since it’s not really described for us in specific examples,…although Christ Himself was certainly a fine example!

        Also, the difference between “inner” and “external” life as we refer to these things as Christians and in Christian tradition:

        We begin to learn about things, in general, in our outer man, which is heavily weighted to function in the sense realm. (This is not to say that we don’t have other less visible/tangible impressions also getting our attention.) We tend to be very strongly identified (tied) to our impression of ourselves as sense realm beings. It seems to be pretty much all we know & “who” we are. There is one kind of experience and outlook for us when we are children, more simple and less complicated. Our religious “ideas” are also more simple. This might correspond to “milk,” and a gentle positive faith connection to our Father God.

        The problem, however, with EVERYTHING about the sense realm is that ultimately it is ALL completely permeated with the negative messages and influences of the “fall,” and it is incapable of giving us a true and perfect representation of anything,…in fact, God and ourselves included! (It’s all just a “mess,” as Linda just told us!)

        For this reason, if we’ve only been seeing ourselves as consisting of all the problems and temptations that are automatically woven in with and weigh on our flesh nature (“sin nature”), and try to convince ourselves that we’re responsible for somehow fixing, controlling or changing these conditions, I think we might be barking up the wrong tree a little bit.

        I don’t see any way that we can “fix” the flesh, the outer man, the conditions of the carnal nature,…but this is what “legalism” implies that we need to do. The only thing we really can do, is find the strength in our unseen inner man to pull our whole engagement with “life” back/away from complete immersion and co-operation with the dominating default settings and pre-occupations and automatic engagements and pulls of the sin-intertwined characteristics and drives/compulsions of the natural flesh we are born with. Of course it’s not “all bad,” but it’s also never “all good” either, and this is the main reason why “legalism” can never work on it’s own, to grow us as spiritual beings into the full glory of the love and peace and joy and fulfillment that we are promised “in Christ.”

        Since we’ll NEVER have success in “working out our own salvation” by trying to manage, control, and purify the flesh/sense realm, since it’s not possible, then we must ask ourselves what is our alternative?

        This is why I think that perhaps more of the “meat” of the Word, and of developing our spiritual life, might be pointing us to that relationship with God, and Christ, and our own “inner man,” that we INTENTIONALLY cultivate through prayer, meditation, and reading the Word. If we want to grow spiritually, and we have but a “mustard seed” of faith, if we follow that voice and follow after God in these ways, our “oneness” with the Spirit of God will grow its own life and demonstrate its own substance and reality in connection with us. In this way only, will our relationship to the external pull of the fallen realm of the senses be changed. And we will be challenged in this effort too, (by “the one” who doesn’t want us to find our “spiritual road to freedom”).

        It’s interesting that sometimes we feel that we need to seriously avoid the externals in some ways (like fasting), while we are developing our “inner life,” and such patterns can go on for quite some time. Eventually, however, I have witnessed/seen an ability to return to the same old, same old, sense realm issues and scenarios, only to find that they have lost their dominating magnetic “power” and attraction for us. Surprisingly, we might also find the compassion of God for all the poor and blinded souls, still entrapped and enmeshed in this maze with no way out but “up.”

        The spiritual crux of our responsibility in this, is the first and most important question we must ask ourselves, and the decision/choice we must make, as to whom we wish to serve: God (and Goodness), or the devil (and evil and a wasted life). It seems like it should be a no-brainer. The results will flow/grow from there. It is up to us: sometimes it feels like resisting the fallen influences is an uphill climb, but God loves us and will help us. As we do “draw near to Him,” He will give to us of His strength for this struggle and success.

        James 4:8 “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

        The rewards are worth the focus, the sacrifices, and the efforts,…always remembering how Christ has gone before us to open, show us, and pave the way.

        God is Good. Be blessed. You are blessed!

      • Georgie-ann

        I have often hesitated to mention the topic of prayer, and the significance of cultivating a deeper and growing prayer life, although I’m sure there is plenty of Christian literature leading us in this way. Also, Jesus was well-known for His “retreats” into the desert to spend special time in prayer and communication with His Father (God),…(but we don’t really know what they were “saying!”).

        When we say the word “prayer,” that doesn’t really tell someone else very much actually about our experience, and since it is our own personal connection (or “pipeline”), it is a difficult thing to convey to someone else, maybe even slightly impossible,…So is this where some “mystery” begins to be associated with words that we use, like “spirituality?” And is this comfortable for us, or not?

        We can’t define, in concrete “sense realm” terms, some aspects of what “spirituality” is, or means. And certainly not all “mysteries” that we encounter are to be trusted. So how do we know what is OK/good “spirituality?” Perhaps we might also be beginning to touch on this realm of “meat” that both Paul and Jesus seem to make references to,…the “somethings more” that they can’t explain to us yet, but that the Holy Spirit will,…

        John 16:12,13 (Jesus)
        12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; … ”

        1 Corinthians 3:2 (Paul) “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.”

        There are aspects of group prayer that we certainly can share with one another, and aspects of personal prayer that seem to be just that — personal. In general, to help guide us, Paul has given us a beautiful description of the “Fruit of the Spirit:”

        Galatians 5:22,23
        22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

        If we begin here, trusting God and honoring His Word — and “drawing near to Him” — I expect that we can expect that His Holy Spirit of Truth will take hold with us, and will continue to lead us into and along His “paths of Righteousness, for His name’s sake.”

        Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

        Psalm 23:1-3

        1 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

        2 “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

        3 “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

        I’ve been “thinking out loud” here. It seems to me that our “spirituality” is very closely tied up with how close we allow ourselves to become with God,…to allow His permanent and perfect Nature to permeate and influence our temporal and imperfect nature,…this unending “free gift” of Salvation that Jesus has offered us by way of the Cross.

        “What wondrous love is this, O my soul!”

      • Georgie-ann

        Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

        This is why prayer can also really be an adventure,…we don’t really even “know ourselves” (our deepest truest selves) all that well,…(if at all). But the Holy Spirit does:

        Romans 8:27 “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

        1 Corinthians 2:10 “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”

        God knows us (our real truth) better even than we know ourselves. We are SO conditioned/(programmed) by “life” experiences and heritage, that there is much that we fail to see, that we remain blinded to. … (Are many people really playing a sort of fool’s “Blind Man’s Buff” as they careen through their life’s circumstances, taking them and themselves and others only at “face value?”)

        Perhaps someone “labors” under the illusion of (supposedly “justified”/justifiable) bitterness and anger, for personal reasons, or for generalized historical “reasons” and scenarios. Such a person views everything with “a jaundiced eye,” and imagines that “evening the score” is somehow within their power, obligation and destiny. This, in itself, is an example of a very “legalistic” approach/attitude to simply living one’s life, but (of necessity) it blocks the ability (and satisfaction) to give and receive and live in genuine love — the illusion of “self love” maybe,…but underneath exaggerated issues of overly narcissistic self-love, are very often conditions of deep self-loathing.

        If this is so, the Holy Spirit already knows it better than we do! There are good reasons that God tells us:

        Romans 12:18,19
        18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”

        So, as in this example, a person with this type of generalized “angry mindset” might be very surprised to find that deep deep within, they are very tired of living this way, and actually simply and only crave relaxation and “real love.” A convinced, lifelong, sad and embittered “cynical” person may find that, in fact, they are craving the supernatural release of the overcoming power of “joy,” in their deepest “heart of hearts.” The anxious and worried need God’s “peace,” and so on and on. No drug could ever adequately simulate or compensate for the permanent spiritual benefits and lasting reality of these gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, releasing us from our “bondage” and slavery to negative mentalities, mental and emotional prisons wherein we have lived as “captives” — captives of illusion and wrong-functioning.

        Made in God’s image, we were not designed to function like this,…promoting futile efforts based on lies. We’ve been designed to run on much better fuel, “available from the manufacturer.”

        The “outer man” is deceived and lies (compared to the reality of the “inner man”) habitually, and often without even knowing it. But God, the Holy Spirit, is never deceived:

        Romans 3:3,4
        3 “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. … ”

        A few juxtapositions pertaining to habituated “negative” human circumstances, and the Holy Spirit’s antidotes:

        anger/hatred vs love
        doubt vs faith
        despair vs hope
        sadness/cynicism vs joy
        anxiety/worry vs peace
        frustration vs patience
        rudeness/cruelty vs gentleness
        malice/envy vs goodness (benevolence)
        pride vs humility
        dissolution vs self-control
        painful ingrown toenail vs healing/relief … (just wanted to see if you were still paying attention!) (-:

        Galatians 5:22,23
        22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

        1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

        1 Thessalonians 1:3 “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,”

        1 Thessalonians 5:8 “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”

        and lastly:

        Ephesians 6:10-20 [The Whole Armor of God]

        10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

        14 “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Paul)

        To reiterate: “This is why prayer can also really be an adventure,…”


  4. Linda

    The violin was my second choice after there weren’t enuf flutes on loan in public school. But no! Not enuf violins either. So, being a nice, tall, big girl I got picked to play (you know this Mike!) viola! Cool thing about violin us that you can also play a mandolin. Cool thing about viola is alto clef … and its mellow tone.

    That to say, I know about broken (string and other) bridges but somehow Jesus gets us to the other side. Magical thinking and childish prayers aside, he is still our Rock.

    Thanks for the holiness/whole mess discussion. Thought provoking as I still wrestle with the chains of legalism…

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