1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.
Almost one year ago, at Epiphany, a friend of mine gave me a “star” word. The idea was to take that word and reflect on it, pray with it, and live with it for a time. She also invited me to blog about my experience with the word. It was a great idea until . . . well, until my word was integrity. Blech! I persevered, though silently and without a blog entry in sight, for the majority of 2013. I agreed, and even asked to participate in this star word experiment so how, when given the word integrity, could I not do what I said I would do?
Initially I thought this particular word would be boring. I value my own integrity, strive like crazy to always keep my word, and feel like my moral code is a guiding force in my life. Then I began interviewing with pastor nominating committees. The funny thing about interviews is that often everyone is trying to put only their best foot forward. The question, “What are your weaknesses?” or a variation of that always gets asked as a way to find a little bit of humanity in an unending stream of wonderfulness. As I found myself interviewing and meditating on the word integrity I vowed that in order to proceed with integrity I needed to be as honest as I could about my strengths AND weaknesses.
As time went along my family and I found ourselves traveling for the summer. All of our time and energy was focused on one another, and it was wonderful. Together we are complete and we can rest in our togetherness. The challenge to this peaceful togetherness came when we arrived in our new home and began figuring out the balance between school, church, and home. It was easy to preserve the integrity of our family without competing draws on our time. However, after several months, we have found a balance that allows the integrity of our family unit to be complete.
The third definition of integrity seems the most theologically relevant. “A perfect condition,” it says. This has me wondering about when conditions are ever perfect. In the season of Advent, as we prepare for the birth of the Christ, I’ve thought about the conditions of his birth and I think they couldn’t have been much less perfect; young, un-wed, oppressive government, traveling on foot or by pack animal at 9 months pregnant, no room in an inn, animals, no mid-wife, fear, counter-cultural behavior. Jesus’ life didn’t suddenly gather perfect conditions at any time; homeless, misunderstood, oppressed, hungry, killed. Yet, it is in the midst of these less than perfect conditions that we find perfection.
Jesus valued different things than people valued and he lived, taught, healed, prayed, and died with integrity to those values. He modeled integrity for us to show us another way to be. That is God’s integrity. Teaching us another way, living and dying with integrity to a value system that the culture, then and now, says is ridiculous. God is faithful, even when we aren’t, and that may be the ultimate definition of integrity.
Now I end my yearlong reflection on integrity with no real conclusions. I’ve had a heightened awareness of my own integrity and have focused on how others show integrity. I’ve fought my own desire to determine who is acting with integrity and when (perhaps next year my star word will be judging). I’ve grown as a person as I’ve spent intentional time sitting with this word, and it turned out to be anything but dull. I’ll do it again. How about you, would you like a word?