Lately I’ve been thinking about what wholeness means. Our congregation (Holy Trinity Lutheran, Minneapolis) recently began worshiping with a new liturgy titled “Sighs Too Deep for Words.” It was developed through a collaboration of pastors, musicians and artists, and it engages expansive language that celebrates broader images of God. The liturgy carries strong themes of grace, mercy, healing and wholeness.

For the Kyrie, we sing “The Canaanite Woman’s Song,” proclaiming our wholeness. Here’s my favorite part:

Show me mercy! Show me mercy!
Let us rise together.
Jesus says:
Great is your faith!
Let it be to you as you desire.
You are already made whole.
You are already made whole.
We are already made whole.

I must admit, I’m not exactly sure what wholeness is. Naturally, healing and wholeness can mean different things to different people. Wholeness could look like living in community, working toward a more just society or striving for peace. For some, healing and wholeness could mean inclusion as well as agency. Still for others, healing can mean physical, mental, emotional or even spiritual recovery.

I think about our son, Konami. He’s 14 years old, tall, handsome, with gorgeous brown eyes and a lovely sense of humor. He’s on the autism spectrum. Would you believe I’ve never had a true conversation with him because of the way his brain processes language? Make no mistake, he loves to talk and has a fantastic vocabulary, but he generally uses scripted language or repeats his words. It seems that I’ll have to wait until I die and go to heaven to be able to have a heart-to-heart with him, to know him more fully the way “normal” moms get to know their sons.

Like parents with neurotypical children, I want him to develop deep, lasting relationships. You know—have best friends, fall in love, get married, have children. Yet in the wake of George Floyd and other similar tragedies, I just need to see him make it to adulthood.

While my son remains not fully known to me, I do trust he is fully known to God and that his identity as a child of God is indelible.

As he grows older and taller, I worry because one day he will encounter a police officer and might not be able to follow the verbal commands. This is why we practice with him to “Get your hands up!” One of us will stretch out our arms, pretend our finger is a firearm and point in his direction, saying loudly, “Get your hands up!” But his autism causes him to first mimic actions before processing the words. That means he does what he sees, not what he hears, so he points his finger firearm back at us. Beloveds, he only has one chance to get it right, and that is terrifying.

Konami is definitely whole, complete, made in God’s image right now—this side of eternity. While my son remains not fully known to me, I do trust he is fully known to God and that his identity as a child of God is indelible. This deep and abiding truth brings me abundant joy. I understand that Konami does not need to be healed or cured in heaven. Selfish as it may be, I need it.

I’m encouraged by the late Nancy Eiesland’s powerful proclamation in her groundbreaking book The Disabled God. She offers a powerful illustration of the resurrected Christ, who bore the scars and wounds of the crucifixion in his body. She reminds the reader that Jesus’ body was not “fixed” or “cured.” Yet Jesus gives this wounded, disabled body to us as the bread of life.

I may not be able to tell you what wholeness is, but I can tell you where wholeness is. Wholeness is in the broken body of Christ. The resurrected Christ was wounded, disabled, and it is this disabled body in which we partake at the altar. The disabled Christ is holy. The disabled Christ is our Bread of Life. We are already made whole.

Download “Sighs Too Deep for Words.”

Angela T. !Khabeb
Angela T. !Khabeb is an ELCA pastor living in Minneapolis. She enjoys an active home life with her husband and three children. 

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