A woman eating an apple

What does it mean to be holy? Image via Wikipedia

Be holy.  I can remember my Dad preaching a sermon on the subject, taking his text from 1 Peter 1:16.  I was a teen at the time and although I wouldn’t admit it to him, it affected me and I so wanted to do everything right so I could be holy.

I don’t think Dad’s sermon outlined what it meant to be holy but somewhere along the way I figured it meant something like, don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t hang out with those who do.  That pretty well colored the way I viewed being holy for quite awhile.

In November 1994, I went to a seminar.  The trainer said the definition of the word holy really boils down to “whole and healthy”.  In that moment, I realized that was what I wanted. I wanted to be whole and healthy. I wanted that definition of holy.

The etymology of the word holy comes from the 13th Century with an Old English word hālig derived from hāl meaning health, happiness and wholeness, according to the free dictionary.

Through the years, I’ve come to realize that I need to be healthy in every area of my life: emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.  That is where the wholeness aspect comes in. And if I am healthy in every area, I will be happy.

I’ve had challenges in every area.  Today, my biggest challenge area is physical.  So, I’m working hard on this area. I have instituted an eating plan, journal my food intake, exercise daily, do strength and fitness training, take vitamins and drink protein shakes.

The physical challenge impacts the emotional so I go to an accountability group.  It impacts the spiritual as our small group has talked about.  We’re beginning the study, Made to Crave, Satisfying Life’s Deepest Desires with God, not Food.  The mental is involved as I make decisions about eating, exercise and time management each day.

Although I’m concentrating on one area, every aspect of who I am is involved. Working on all of these areas brings me deep satisfaction and personal happiness.

Today, reading a post by Alene Snodgrass titled “Be Holy”, a thought occurred to me. All those years ago. I wanted to be holy. Have I achieved it?

I like goals. I like to break them down into measurable outcomes, ways you can tell if you’ve reached the goal or even have gotten close. However, being holy does not seem have such outcomes.

In that seminar years ago, though, I made a faith statement, one that has become a way for me to understand if what I am doing in my life fits with where I want to be going.  I said, “I am a whole, healthy, happy woman of God.”  Recently I added, “encouraging others to discern truth and administer grace.

I use this as my benchmark for whether I should be involved in an activity or take on another challenge. Does it fit into my goal in life?  If it fits, I see where it fits and whether or not I have time to take it on.  If it fits, it is just one more step in the right direction.

The old-time religion definition of being perfect in order to be holy does not really get at what I have come to realize is meant in 1 Peter 1. In verses 13-14 Peter tells the Christians he’s writing to  prepare their minds for action (mentally), be self-controlled (emotionally), to not conform to the evil desires they used to have (physically) and to set their hope on the grace to be given them when Jesus Christ is revealed (spiritually).

In verse 15 he tells them to be holy in all they do (wholeness).  And then in verse 16 he says that God says, “Be holy because I am holy.”  It is this last admonition that encompasses all the others in deep personal satisfaction or happiness.

So back to my question, have I achieved holiness?  No.  But I do believe I am headed in the right direction.

Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds. Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God".

She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, both available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast under the tabs by those names.