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What is the part and what is the whole?

I had an insight while meditating this morning. (I always wonder if these insights are a case of mind-wandering or a case of guidance from the Holy Spirit, which is supposed to come in during meditation.) The gist of it was this: We can view our lives in one of two ways. Both ways rest on a concept of what is the whole and what are the parts.

In the first way, the whole is my self getting through life—being comfortable, safe, happy, etc. This is an incredibly multifaceted endeavor, one important part of which is what I call my spiritual life. This spiritual life has an important contribution to make to the big picture. For instance, if I don’t have shoes, I’m in trouble. If I don’t have a job, I’m in trouble. If I don’t have a working TV, I’m in trouble. And if I don’t have a working spiritual life, I’m also in trouble. My spiritual life, then, is an integral component of the whole, without which I’m a bit like a three-legged stool that is missing one of its legs (except this stool has about 50 legs, so the analogy is not quite apt).

In the second way, the whole is me getting back to God. This does not mean that my spiritual life is literally the only thing that matters in my life. I still need shoes. I probably still need a job. And if I don’ t have a job, I better have a working TV! It’s not that these things all become totally irrelevant. Rather, they become parts of a different whole. Before, their significance was their ability to contribute to the project of me getting through life. Now, their significance lies solely in their ability to contribute (or not) to me getting back to God.

So now, the shoes are there to aid my feet in carrying me to where the Holy Spirit directs me, so I can give miracles. The job is there so that I both have a source of money, which allows me to stay on earth for as long as I’m needed, and have an avenue of service. The TV is there—well, I’ll have to think about that one.

The point is that every little thing matters only insomuch as it affects the whole: me getting back to God. Therefore, in each situation, my larger goal is not me getting through life, but me getting back to God. Each situation, each event, and each encounter has a positive contribution to make to that goal. But it may well not make that contribution unless I see that as what the situation, even, or encounter is actually for. If I don’t, I may well be blind to the hidden ingredient that is the only thing that makes that situation worthwhile.

So the question is: Where are we? Are we firmly in the first way? Have we moved into the second way? Or are we somewhere in the middle? It’s worth thinking about, which is what I’m doing now that this picture has come to me.