Long ago, as a freshman in college, I declared my major to be metallurgical engineering. I didn’t end up as a metallurigical engineer, but there are still things about the science of metals that have fascinated me. One of them is called “metallurgical integrity.” Metallurgical integrity concerns the consistency of a piece of metal. Structurally, if we have a block of metal, we want the metal to be the same at every point. If it’s not, the metal will be weak at the point of least consistency. So when stress is placed on the metal block the chances are greater that the block will dis-integrate at the point of least integrity. Metallurgical integrity is extremely important. If the metal on a Boeing 777 lacks complete integrity there could be problems at 35,000 feet at 600 mph. I think the same is true of persons. When the pressures of life come on us we will crack or fail or crash and burn at that place where we lack integrity.
I define a person of integrity as someone who has moral character, or moral “fiber,” in every situation of their life, whether in the workplace, the marketplace, the sanctuary, home, or when alone. A dis-integrated life is the life of someone who is polite and friendly and gracious when you see them at Meijer but impolite and cynical and legalistic in their home towards their family. In one environment they are a friendly and sociable Dr. Jekyll while in another environment they are a misanthropic Mr. Hyde. Such a person lacks “integrity,” being like a piece of metal that’s strong in one place and weak in another. They are morally and spiritually inconsistent.
What does a truly integrated life look like? How can we live as integated people today? Here are some of my thoughts about this.
Measure your character not by looking at other people, but by looking at God. For me the classic biblical text is Isaiah chapter 6. Isaiah, arguably the most spiritually-together person in Israel, has an excounter with God. In the face of the holiness of God Isaiah confesses, “Woe is me, I am undone!” Or, “I’m in big trouble, I thought I was integrated but I see I am dis-integrated.” The fibers of Isaiah’s moral and spiritual life were unravelling in the presence of The Perfectly Integrated One.
When we compare ourselves and measure ourselve over against other people, we can eventually find people more disintegrated than we are, thus making ourselves look pretty good in comparison. It’s only when we measure ourselves against God that we see who we really are; viz., as people who don't have it as much together as we thought we did.
This is a very good thing for us to see. It’s the beginning of real, authentic integrity. It’s a healthy dose of reality. God wants us to see this, not to leave us disintegrated, but to begin to knit together the moral and spiritual fabric of our lives. The brokenness thing Isaiah experienced is the necessary precursor to a truly integrated life.
So - consistently place yourself in the presence of God. Get broken before God. This isn’t something you need to force or worry about faking. In the real God-encounter brokenness just happens, inexorably. This feels painful but it’s also refreshing, since it’s not about religious game-playing and posturing but about the Real God who loves you and me and wants to rebuild our lives so we bring glory to God.