“The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light” – Plato
“Integrity is the essence of everything successful” – R. Buckminster Fuller
The Queen Mary, the largest ship to cross the oceans through much of its ocean-going life, was eventually retired, anchored as a floating hotel and museum in Long Beach, California. I have attended functions on the Queen Mary, and it is an impressive example of human engineering.
During the conversion from ocean service to retirement, her three smokestacks, massive and prominent identifiers that made the Queen recognizable, were taken off to be scraped down and repainted. Surprisingly, when they were lowered by cranes and placed on the dock they began to crumble. Very little was left of the heavy steel plate from which the stacks had been formed, for the steel itself had largely rusted away. What steel remained was weakened, dangerously thin or non-existent in some places, held together by more than thirty coasts of paint that had been applied over the years. While the smoke stacks looked impressive on the outside, they lacked internal integrity. The rebuilt replacements that complete the look of the ship are non-functional, inauthentic substitutes for the originals.
On the outside, the original funnels (or stacks) looked good, but on the inside where it mattered the most, they lacked integrity. This describes the difficulty encountered by those who live a divided life before their God. Such a life will be fractured along the lines that divide the “sacred” parts of the person’s living from the “secular” or “normal” parts. Such living will lack integrity. When one seeks to augment this divided living with religiosity and ritual, both human-derived substitutes for a united heart and undivided life, the result will be inauthentic at best. Our created purpose is to be in union with our God with all of our being, not just part of it.
Ray Steadman wrote his most famous book, “Authentic Christianity,” as a call to followers of Jesus Christ to avoid inauthentic outward religiosity and return to an authentic and undivided life in relationship with Jesus Christ. That call is ever timely for us. The word “authentic” means conforming to an original, by reproducing essential features. If something is authentic, it is made or done the same way as the original. The replacement funnels on the Queen Mary were look-alikes but were not authentic. They were not made to function but were made only to look like they function.
Authenticity in our relationship with out God is vitally important for us, and we are not authentic in that relationship if we are divided in our living. Our lives will be fractured, and we will not realize the fullness, strength, and transformation we long for in life. Our attempts to have a “sacred” side to our lives will not yield that for which our souls long, for it will be an incomplete and half-hearted approach. Likewise, we will never be satisfied in our “secular” pursuits, for we can never be satisfied at the soul level apart from our God.
Solomon, the wise king of Israel, said it clearly when he reported on what God the Lord has told him: “You shall seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” This is the essence of the message given to King Asa, recorded in 2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” With all of our hearts, fully committed to our God. It is this for which we were made, and it is only in this kind of united heart, this undivided living that we will find satisfaction at the soul level. It is in this authentic, undivided living we find life’s true purpose and highest expression.
A divided life or a life that does not seek for God at all, because of its created purpose, will be fractured and inauthentic, lacking integrity. Integrity, from the same root as “integer,” connotes wholeness and unity. We cannot have true integrity at the soul level until we are wholehearted in our pursuit of the only purpose for which we were created. Thus, David, the ancient king of Israel, penned this prayer to our God in Psalm 86:11-12, “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.”
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” – Alan K. Simpson