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Speaking to the Soul: What Is Wholeness?

Speaking to the Soul: What Is Wholeness?

by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller

It seems a fitting question to ponder this Lent.


For me, I don’t think I can talk about wholeness without talking about what it means to be broken.


And the best way I can talk about both wholeness and brokenness is with a story.


I was only a few months into my first call and a few months away from my wedding day when my dad died.


He had been sick, but the timing of his death was unexpected.


It was a few days after Christmas.


I was visiting my then fiancé in Texas when I received the phone call that my dad had died. We quickly made flight arrangements and I flew home to Ohio. As with all forms of grief some things are clear and some things are waiting to be unearthed and remembered.


I remember some of the phone calls I made at the airport making arrangements.
I don’t remember the exact words and thoughts but I do remember receiving many text messages of support.


Yet, one thing I remember so vividly is being in the airplane, and feeling almost outside of myself. It’s so hard to explain, but when I was so high in the air, secure in the airplane, I could almost imagine that life as I knew it was on pause.

That it couldn’t be real that my dad died.

That I could just be above it all.

That it was just a dream.

That life would go on as it had before I received the phone call.


Flying in the airplane I hoped that life would just remain on pause.

So that I wouldn’t have to feel the pain, loss, and grief.


But as quickly as I went up, just as quickly I came down to reality.

To life after death.

To life without a father on this earth.


I was no longer able to avoid my feelings, but had to acknowledge them.


Perhaps that’s the best way for me to describe wholeness.

Wholeness as walking through life full of loss and grief and hurt and anger, as well as joy and hope, and through it all remaining able to move forward.


One small step at a time.


Wholeness for me is not found pushing feelings and the reality of life away.

Wholeness is experiencing life and love and loss to its fullest.

Wholeness is knowing that the world is broken and full of sin, but continuing to enter into that brokenness nevertheless.

It’s remembering that the Gospel truth always brings life from death.

Wholeness is recognizing the presence of God in ourselves and seeing it, too, in our neighbors.


I don’t think of wholeness as having an end or being a specific destination for which we are all striving, but rather wholeness is the journey of this life.

Of becoming more and more fully human.

Of becoming more and more fully Christ-like.


It’s always growing.

It’s always within our reach if we but believe that God does and will continue to make beautiful things out of us.



Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a toddler, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. Her website is





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