Season 2 - Week 4
Standing next to someone who can't sing in tune can be kind of funny to start with but in the end it can feel like it is doing some serious damage to your eardrums. It grates and clashes and feels uncomfortable. The notes aren't what they should be. They are off. There is a dissonance.
The concept of dissonance is a really helpful way to understand the word integrity. We've all sat through that 'integrity talk' - heck, we've probably all given that integrity talk. You know, the one that goes on about making sure that we get it right - that what we say and do matches - that we live up to the highest possible standard.
Yet, if we who give that talk are totally honest with ourselves, we would reluctantly admit that we all mess up - probably on most days. Sometimes that happens in a big way and sometimes it might be small. Other times we mess up simply because we are way too average and seem to have silenced the words of Jesus about us living life in all its fullness.
Sometimes it's because we are so far from loving God with everything we've got that it is almost impossible for anyone to tell who we belong to and follow.
Perhaps the first step on this journey of integrity is to see and acknowledge the dissonance. This means recognising that we are not the 'finished article' but we are works in constant progress. To make that leap and to take that step takes some disruption. We have to be willing to admit that things aren't as they should be, whatever our position and however many years we've been part of this adventure with God.
Secondly, we need to be kind to ourselves. Shame will kill you but grace will always save you. The Hebrew word 'hesed' describes the unrelenting loving kindness of God. That is the truth, right there - that the foundation of everything is God's love towards us and of us. This is what we can and must always lean in on, and then fall deep into the overwhelming grace available to us.
the foundation of everything is God's love towards us and of us
Thirdly, what matters is our direction of travel. Have you noticed how pretty much every encounter that Jesus has which we read about in the Gospels seems to focus on this? Whether it is in the words 'sin no more' or 'do you love me?' there is always a divine question from Jesus hanging in the air which is best summed up as 'regardless of all that has been, are you with me now?' When it comes to our integrity, that seems like an excellent place to begin - with Jesus simply asking us, 'regardless of all that has been, are you with me now?"
Fourthly, reducing the dissonance, the mismatch, the space between what we say and what we do cannot and will not happen by accident. It takes intention and practice. Our brains are complicated and incredibly simple all at the same time. The patterns in our behaviour are habits and these are formed through the development of neural pathways. Things that we do on a regular basis map out a route in our brains that we then repeatedly follow. We will keep doing these things until we develop different and better habits. That is where the graft is; the hard work; the persistence. In the words of St. Paul, that is what it means to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is not enough to just know the right stuff. We've got to walk it out. The Asaro Tribe have a saying, 'Knowledge is just a rumour until it lives in a muscle' which makes it very clear.
Integrity is a choice and an action not just a great idea.
And all these steps begin today.
And the day after that.
Each day, choosing to acknowledge we are not all that we sometimes claim to be.
Choosing to embrace the 'hesed' - the unrelenting loving kindness of God.
Choosing to face in the right direction.
Choosing to practice becoming the kind of person we long to be - our best selves.
Choosing to develop the integrity we desire.
Choosing to reduce the dissonance.
Choosing to create lives that are in tune with what we want them to be.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Can you identify any dissonance in your own life at the moment?
As you reflect on these areas, hear Jesus' words "Regardless of what has been, are you with me now?" How do you respond?
Who is helping you to become the best version of you currently? Do you need to ask someone? What could you practice this week that will help create good or better habits in your own life?
Do you need to lean in on the 'hesed' of God? What is stopping you? What is your prayer with regard to this?