130d961c3cd745dd492e2dbedd949fd0I’ve just had the most amazing week. During this amazing week, I heard a lot of great music, saw my children grow and stretch in ways I’ve only dreamed about, spent precious time with my parents, and I learned so so much. And yet in all of the amazing things I heard and thought about this week, one phrase keeps coming back to me. One little phrase keeps pushing its way through the rest and demanding my attention: “the holiness of wholeness.” Wow.

Okay, first of all if the whole “holiness” thing makes you a little uncomfortable, hang with me please. If you’re here reading this to begin with, maybe you could use a dose of holy in your wholeness just like I can. Somehow that sounds a little dirty. And I have now revealed myself fully as a questionable guide, but I beg your indulgence.

The speaker I heard utter this phrase delivered it so gently (and with a Scottish accent, so I was inclined to be positive). He went on to talk about how wholeness requires that we care for one another, not just ourselves. There was a great deal of poetic language around interconnectedness and deep and abiding bonds. I was down with the whole thing, but it struck me that for some folks, the problem of wholeness isn’t one of remembering to take care of others. For some of us, the problem of wholeness is remembering to take care of ourselves too.

The Reverend Doctor John Phillip Newell pointed out that we cannot experience the holy, the sacred, without tending to our interconnection, recognizing our community, being in the world. I agree. And I counter that we cannot experience the sacred without tending to ourselves. I dare say he would agree with me (in a Scottish accent).

Without tending our own fires (and by that I mean the ones in our hearts), without feeding our own desires, without resting and playing and being still that which we offer to others becomes diminished over time. We become weaker, less certain of ourselves, perhaps even resentful or unwilling. Without balance in the way we dole out our time, we ensure that our efforts will become tasks to be checked off rather than opportunities to engage through real connection.

Years ago a counselor, who was helping me as I attempted to stay in graduate school after a particularly difficult miscarriage, offered me a book called Sabbath. I’ve just gone and looked for it on my shelf and it is nowhere to be found despite the fact that there are many other volumes of questionable use taking up that space, but as I skimmed through the titles, I stumbled onto another, purchased in a book store with a heart friend at just the right time. And that slim volume, coincidentally written by the mother of a high school friend, offered just the right image for the holy wholeness I imagine. The author invites us to imagine a different reality, one that I’d like to share with you.

How might your life have been different, if, as a young woman, there had been place for you, a place where you could go to be with women? A place where you could be received as you strove to order your moments and your days.

A place where you could learn a quiet centeredness…to help you ground yourself in daily patterns that would nurture you through their gentle rhythms…a place where, in the stillness at the ending of a task, you could feel an ancient presence flowing out to sustain you…and you learned how to receive and to sustain it in return.

How might your life be different?

–  Judith Duerk

How might your life be different if you took seriously the idea that nurturing yourself is as crucial to the advance of all that you love as is nurturing those around you?

How might your life be different? How holy might your wholeness feel?


  1. So pertinent to my life right now. Too many things happening and I need to care for me better, just a struggle each day.

    1. It’s so easy to put off our self care in favor of things that SEEM more pressing. I always try to remind myself how much more effectively I’ll address those concerns if I remember my own needs as well, or even first.

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