I cannot braid, which is probably one of the leading reasons the Lord saw fit to give me all boys. I am not talking fancy braids or upside-down, fish-tail French braids (if I remember correctly from grade school slumber parties, those are things), I am talking plain old braids. My fingers fumble to weave the disparate threads together, and as such, God has spared me doing hair.
That being said, in concept, I love braids. I love how they bring separate strands together into an integrated whole. I think I long for integration, in part, because life can feel so scattered and splintered and willy-nilly.
Integration comes from the Latin root word integer meaning whole. While you most likely have forgotten the quadratic equation, hopefully you still remember the basics: an integer is a whole number, nice and smooth, not fractured into small bits and parts.
We were intended and created for wholeness (shalom to use a Biblical Hebrew term). We long for harmony, for a clear and overarching purpose, a river into which all the seemingly disparate streams of our lives unite and move as one in one direction.
As a culture that has become increasingly complex and technologically connected, there is a huge push toward simplicity as antidote. While I believe that are many beautiful principles braided into the simplicity movement, I dare say that complexity is not the problem requiring a solution. Duplicity is.
We have duplicitous hearts, seeking to serve two or two hundred masters. With affections running wild in often-opposite directions, no wonder we tend to feel torn and pulled like those being drawn and quartered.
The key, then to integration, lies less in our schedules and more in our affections. To have one over-arching, all-consuming affection is to find oneself leading an integrated life, even when the day’s duties seems disparate and disconnected.
In his commentary on Hebrews 12:1-2, MacLaren declares that “the only aim that is worthy of a man to live for, as his supreme and dominant (purpose) is that he shall be completely molded in character, disposition, nature, heart and will into the likeness of Christ.”
The Christian life, more than any other, has the potential to be integrated, even when complex. As David cried out in the Psalms, we are invited to beg God to give us undivided hearts bent on this one purpose.
Teach me your way, O Lord; I will walk in your truth; Unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11.
The Hebrew word translated unite comes from a root word meaning “to make or declare one.” The image that comes to my heart and mind is that of a braid in which all the various strands of our souls and hearts are drawn together and made as one with one overarching purpose: to fear His name.
The Christian’s overarching ambition to be conformed to the image of Christ provides a means of integrating the seemingly divided tasks and troubles of the day.
Even a day splintered with seemingly disconnected tasks like shopping for groceries, mopping floors, meeting with a hurting friend and balancing a budget can be integrated if all are done as unto Him. Thus, my day does not have to be simple and streamlined for my life to be integrated and whole; rather, my affections and purpose must be focused on Christ first. If this be the case, my day can be simple, no matter how complicated its tasks.
Despite the fact that I know this, tomorrow I will have to deal with a heart made complex by divided affections. Even though I know, cerebrally, that He is the One grand aim of my life, the Only One worthy of undivided adoration, my desires and affections continually desert the One to whom they are made to directed.
When this happens, when I find my own heart drawn and quartered, I must run with the wild, unkept strands of my heart to the One who can braid beautiful things from a hot mess of a heart. I must confess the complexity I have again brought upon myself and cry out for an overwhelming and ordered affection for Him.
Thankfully, God is far more skilled than I at braiding.