In the discipline of mathematics, the whole is always equal to the sum of the parts. Four plus two plus three will always equal nine, we can count on it (pun intended). This concept holds true no matter how many the parts, it is predictable, reliable. We can count on the outcome. This is a good thing. Without it, I doubt we could have put a man on the moon. But I don’t think this rule holds true in other disciplines.
Take a choir, for example. You have your parts; soprano, alto, tenor, bass; throw in a piano, a director, the music (words and notes) of course, the singers themselves and anything else that might be thrown into the mix. But when the choir sings, most often, the result will be something far greater than the sum of the individual parts, the individual notes, the individual singers themselves. Because a skillful director will bring all the parts together in performance and the result will be something far greater than a simple sum, as voices blend and bring written music to life, letting it fill the air, bringing joy to those who listen.
Live theater is another example of the whole being considerably greater than the sum of its parts. You start with a script, add in actors, costumes, lighting, a set, a director, blocking and the actual delivering of the individual lines of the play; but the result or sum total of all this coming together is much more than would be predicted by just looking at the individual parts. In performance, the characters come to life and the audience becomes a part of the equation as they are ushered into the story and the very lives of the people who have come to life before them. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Even in a team sport, such as basketball, the coach counts on the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. He counts on his team being better as a team, than are his players individually. When the players combine their talents on the court, the result is more than simple addition would have predicted. That’s when the magic happens and the unexpected occurs. That’s what sports fans live for.
People are more than the sum of their individual parts as well. I was reminded of this when I tried to compose an introduction for myself, for an online dating service. How do you put a life on paper? I found the process intensely frustrating, with no satisfactory solution. In attempting to put a life on paper, something is lost in the translation.What is behind the words? What is between the lines? What is left unsaid? The lines we write about ourselves, meant to define us, are the same lines which confine us, putting limits on who we are as we feel compelled to stay within the lines we have drawn for ourselves, or worse yet, the lines that others have drawn for us.
Is our resume the measure of our life? We are more than our resumes. We are more than a list of our accomplishments. We are more than a list of our likes and dislikes. We are more than the sum total of our cumulative life experiences. We all have a story. Actually, we all have many stories over time, woven together into the fabric that we wear as our life story. We are so much more than meets the eye. Like icebergs, most of who we are is not visible, but hidden beneath the surface, out of view, waiting to be discovered. For each of us, our whole is greater than the sum of our individual parts.
What is our measure? Where is our worth? We are more than the jobs we do, more than the roles we fill, (parent, sibling, friend, neighbor, coworker, boss, teacher, student and on and on). We are more than our relationships, more than our possessions, more than our activities. We are more because our identity, our worth, is not found in these things. It is found in our Creator. And because He doesn’t change, even though our circumstances constantly change, (jobs, relationships, health, finances, etc.), our worth and value as His creation doesn’t change. We will always be “more” because we are created in His image. And we would do well to remember that each and everyone we share this planet with is “more” than meets the eye also, just as we are, because they too are created in His image.
We are more than our physical bodies, with the accompanying abilities or disabilities; more than our physical attributes, upon which our culture puts so much attention and emphasis. Created in the image of our triune Creator, we are body, mind and spirit. These cannot be separated out, but added together are who we are, yet yielding more than can be explained by simple addition. Even modern medicine acknowledges the connections between the three. In attempting to treat our physical ailments, the effects of our mind and our spirit cannot be ignored. They are inseparable, inextricably linked, each to the other. Our experience of ourselves and others is a result of the interplay and interaction between our three parts. This mysterious coexistence of our three aspects reveals the unique person that God created us to be. We are more because He is always more than we could ever imagine or comprehend. We are more because He is more. We are more because we are created in His image.
“For God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27
“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14
“what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet:” Psalm 8:4-6
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matt.10:29-31
There you have it. We are valuable to God, our Creator. That’s where our worth lies, where our identity resides. We are more than the sum of our individual parts because He knit our parts together and because we are created in His image. He created us unique, we are all originals. When we seek our worth in other ways we will be disappointed. But God’s love never fails. take heart, in Him we are more . . .
sincerely, Grace Day