Integrated wholeness

Part 7 of a series

March 26, 2014 | Viewpoints
Troy Watson |

In my last “Spirit attunement” column, March 3, page 14, I explained why I believe “wilderness seasons” and solitude are essential for many individual’s spiritual vitality. However, it is noteworthy that Spirit attunement always happens in the context of community in the Christian tradition.

When Pentecost occurs in Acts 2, the disciples are gathered together in “one accord” (in unity). In the upper room, it is a community that is permeated with God’s presence. In fact, I cannot find one example in the New Testament of an individual being baptized with the Holy Spirit outside the context of community. (If I’m in error here, please let me know.)

Spirit attunement is ultimately a communal condition. It quickens all our relationships and expands our awareness of being interconnected to the whole. It is not an introspective and solitary pipeline that connects us to God, setting us apart from the world and the people around us. It is grounded in our interconnectedness with others. You can’t be united with the vine without being united to the other branches of the vine.

Our communion with God is embedded in our communion with others. The Apostle John says that if we don’t love our fellow human beings, whom we can see, then we can’t love God, whom we can’t see. To be attuned to the Holy Spirit is to be conscious of our oneness with other human beings and creation.

When the Bible talks about being set apart from the world, it means being set apart from the pursuits of “empire” and ego—things like security, wealth and power—so we can love people as Jesus did. But our egos like to grab hold of concepts like “being set apart” in a way that makes us feel right, distinct and superior to others. On the contrary, Spirit consciousness brings vulnerability, openness, sensitivity and humility into our relationships, qualities that make the ego very uncomfortable.

Ego consciousness is the rival of Spirit attunement. The Apostle Paul unfortunately frames this rivalry by pitting the flesh against the Spirit. This terminology has misguided many believers towards an unhealthy asceticism throughout Christian history. Sadly, many Christians have been raised with toxic and antagonistic attitudes toward their physical beings and desires.

As Tony Campolo once joked, “We have ironically taught our children that sex is a dirty, terrible, wicked thing and they should save it for someone they really love.” Unfortunately, this negative attitude towards our physical reality has influenced how we treat our environment as well, resulting in heinous abuses of nature.

The physical realm, including our environment, our bodies, our sexuality and our love of beauty, is not bad. God created the physical world and said that it was good. Indeed, the incarnation is the good news of God being revealed in the flesh. Surely, God wouldn’t manifest God-self in something innately bad.

Yet we don’t like to dwell on the details of Jesus’ natural bodily functions as a result of his human digestive and reproductive systems. There is a shameful stigma surrounding our natural physi-cality in many Christian circles. Yet this shame about our raw physicality was not God’s intention for humanity. It was a result of the Fall and our descent into ego consciousness. It is not our physicality that rages against the Spirit. It is our attachment to that which separates us from the whole.

Spirit attunement increases our sense of oneness with God, others and creation. It also reintegrates the whole of who and what we are as human beings, including our physical bodies, imperfections and shadows. Some mystics have described Spirit attunement as realizing we never left the Garden of Eden. Once again, we walk uninhibited with God, naked and unashamed.

When we are attuned to Divine Spirit, we see beyond our singularity and glimpse the greater unity and omnipresence of God in all. Paul affirms this when he proclaims in Colossians that “Christ is all and in all.” We are no longer male or female, Greek or Jew; we are one in the Spirit. We no longer identify with that which separates us from nature, from others or from parts of ourselves.

The real litmus test of Spirit attunement is the fruit of the Spirit. Are the qualities of love, peace, joy and patience spreading like leaven into all our relationships with others, God, creation and our own complicated selves?

Troy Watson ( is a human being in transition on many levels. This article is part of an ongoing series on ‘Spirit attunement.’

—Posted March 26, 2014

See also:

Part 1 (Sept. 30. 2013 issue)

Part 2 (Oct. 28, 2013 issue)

Part 3 (Nov. 25, 2013 issue)

Part 4 (Jan. 6, 2013 issue)

Part 5 (Feb. 3, 2014 issue)

Part 6 (March 3, 2014 issue)

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.