Whole: An Honest Look at the Holes in Your Life-and How to Let God Fill Them

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How to get past whatever’s holding you back—and start living a whole new story

We all have holes in our lives—those things we lament about ourselves. Those things we allow to define us in ways we don’t like. Those things that keep us from living the life God wants for us.

But what if you discovered that the holes in your life are really the things that will ultimately make you . . . well, whole?

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Whole: An Honest Look at the Holes in Your Life and How to Let God Fill Them

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How to get past whatever’s holding you back—and start living a whole new story

We all have holes in our lives—those things we lament about ourselves. Those things we allow to define us in ways we don’t like. Those things that keep us from living the life God wants for us.

But what if you discovered that the holes in your life are really the things that will ultimately make you . . . well, whole?

Author and communicator Lisa Whittle knows this all too well. When her world was rocked to the core in a very public way, her faith and whole reason for living were challenged like never before. In that moment, Lisa was confronted by the holes in her spiritual life. And what she learned not only changed her life, but could bring great possibilities to yours.

In Whole, Lisa calls you to take an honest look at your holes, discover how to fill them with God’s presence, and get to a real and vibrant place of wholeness instead. In her trademark bold, compassionate, and relatable voice, Lisa takes you on a transformational journey of understanding who you really are . . . and what you were born to be and do. Tyndale House Publishers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781414337982
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 948,159
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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An honest look at the holes in your life—and how to let God fill them

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Whittle
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-3798-2

Chapter One


What seems a hindrance becomes a way. HENRI NOUWEN

The tears were falling in record number. I hated that I couldn't stop them. But when dams break, things get wet.

I had been to therapy, but this couch session was different. It wasn't a professional with a mahogany-framed degree who sat in front of me; it was my longtime friend, Monty. And he wasn't holding back his assessments.

"You doubt God, Lisa. You doubt what He can do through you."

His words jolted me, not unlike the moment in the middle of a minor league baseball game just weeks prior when I was hit in the face by a stray baseball: I hadn't seen it coming and I thought, Oh, that's what it feels like. It's not that I hadn't been confronted with truth before. It's just that as a grown adult, it had been a while, and it hurt more than I had thought it would.

The presence of my husband next to me on Monty's sectional should have made me feel comfortable. Instead, I felt strangely exposed. Monty was a mentor to both of us, and we had been vulnerable with him before. But I didn't want my ugly private thoughts pulled out, being laid bare in front of anyone. The truth is, I still wanted them not to be true. If I didn't give them a platform, maybe they could continue to live behind the curtain.

But Monty had outed them for me, here in his living room, and I couldn't cram them back in. My husband and I had flown across the United States to vacation in a place where we could also spend time with Monty and his wife. But this confrontation was more than I had bargained for, and I found myself wondering if the trip itinerary should be dusted for the fingerprints of God.

My dam broke that day, releasing a flood of tears down onto Monty's corduroy couch. But it was because of much more than my embarrassment from the exposure. I cried ultimately because I knew what he said was true. No matter how much I wanted to deny it, the journey of my life confirmed it: my story was full of holes.

My story: my life ... my journey ... the things I'd seen and done in my life. My holes: the things that had come as a result, limiting and defining me. Holes in my religion, roles, and experiences had kept me from many things: effectiveness, peace, fulfilling my created purpose. Some of them I had dealt with before, but others had found a corner of my heart to hide out in, lying dormant until something called them out. Doubt, lurking in the hole that my life experiences had formed, was being forced out into the open. The thought had nagged me for years while I ignored it, but now it had become evident to someone other than me. I wanted God to use me. I just wasn't sure He would.

I wonder if you relate to this feeling of wanting God to use you but not knowing if He ever will. I wonder if you are among the seventy million people who feel like something from your past is holding you back in life. I wonder if, like mine, your story is full of holes—limitations that have gotten in your way or that have been allowed to live behind a curtain or hide out in a corner. I wonder if you know that all of that can change, or if you just think those are words that look good on the page of a book. Most of all I wonder if you know that you have a story to tell at all.

I have been the skeptic who doubted the latter for myself. I have been the good girl, and I have also been the bad. I have searched and found, loved and lost, failed and succeeded. I have been a religious addict—loving the idea of God more than His presence. I have seen Him stay around when others walked away. I have watched Him change the course of my life at a time when it was careening recklessly in a dangerous direction.

I have no reason to doubt. My first instinct was to tell Monty that. After all, the inner religious addict that was overthrown during my spiritual recovery some years back still lurks quietly inside, waiting for moments like this when it can rise up, if I allow it, to muffle truth again with its articulate, saintly manifesto.

But I was weary of that mess—that private place that feared soul exposure. I needed to own up to what Monty said, even though it was painful. I needed to deal with it so that the hole inside no longer had control over me. Throughout my life I had lived both ways, with my holes left unattended on the one hand and with Jesus filling them up on the other. And I knew that the only way my life would be made well was if truth won. Otherwise, I was relegated to a hollow existence—a number holder, occupying space in someone's line. That was something I could not accept.

I don't want you to accept it either. My friend, you are not meant to live a hollow existence. You are not meant to live life relegated to your holes ... to be a space occupier, a number holder. You are meant to be a world influencer, a life alterer, a game changer. You are meant to live life well by becoming whole. You are meant to be a storyteller.

This rich promise of your purpose is found in Romans 9:17: "I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth." Jesus wants to take a wrecking ball to the barriers that keep you from your divine appointment to display His power in you. He wants to use your voice to spread His fame. The question is, is this something you want too?

Dust this page for His fingerprints. They are all over this moment and all over your future ... in the story ... of your life.

But I Don't Have a Story

I have always known the power of a story. As the daughter of a pastor, I grew up hearing countless numbers of them told weekly from a wooden pulpit: persuasive, stirring, effective. I waited for them during the sermon every Sunday, as if they were the ice-cream truck and my sweaty hand were ready with my fifty cents. The stories mattered. I loved them. I needed them to help me make sense of everything else in the finely orated message delivered by my father. I could remember them and often did, well on into the next week ... the next story ... the coming years of my life, even when I remembered nothing else.

For a time, I was satisfied with hearing someone else's story. The translated pages of another person's life intrigued me. But at some point, I wasn't satisfied any longer. I suspect it happened right about the time an evangelist in eelskin cowboy boots came to our redbrick church in the heart of a small Oklahoma town.

I don't remember his name, but I remember the color of his hair (sandy brown) and his story (sordid). He'd had four stepfathers—they'd all abused him. He left home at sixteen. Became homeless a year later. Lived in an alleyway. Drank his liver to near failure. Prayed for his life to end.

Of course, it didn't. But there was an ending to the sordid part of his story, and it was glorious. It had to be, I knew, for him to stand on the stage as a preacher. After all, people who got on stages had their lives all together. That's what I thought.

The glorious portion of his story was this: Someone told him about God. He was offered a home and doctored back to health. He got his GED, enrolled in Bible college, and studied to become a minister. His was an amazing story: vibrant, captivating, and neatly tied up with a shiny Jesus bow.

But all I can remember thinking as I sat in the padded pew, a young girl who loved to listen to someone else's story, was, I don't have a story. It was as if I knew that the safe, beautiful life God had blessed me with would never be worthy of sharing on a stage. Suddenly, I didn't want to hear someone else's story. I wanted to have one of my own.

Maybe the circumstances of your life have left you in no doubt as to what your story is and you need no convincing that your story is worthy to be shared. Or maybe like me, you have lived your life listening to other people's stories, and there is a place inside that burns to have one of your own: one to know, to share, that's important. No matter the point at which we are on our wholeness journey, we all want our story to matter—to resonate in the heart of another. But first we have to know we have one and that it can make a difference.

I can assure you: you do and it can. Jesus did not create people without stories or without giving their stories purpose. We all have empty places that we need Jesus to fill—even those of us who have already experienced the healing presence of God in certain areas of our life, but as life happens, different holes have surfaced. The stories we live are not perfect. They don't have to be tied up in a crisp, shiny bow before we can share them. True, we will never be whole in the most complete sense until we reside in heaven. But based on the promises of Scripture about the joy we can experience on earth, I believe a measure of wholeness is possible in this life. Otherwise our story is just about our holes, and that leaves out Jesus. (And really, who would be compelled by that?) Wholeness through Jesus is a story meant to change the very course of life, starting with your own.

Why Your Story?

There has never been, nor will there ever be, any better storyteller than Jesus. His stories were so powerful that He was not without a captive audience to hear them, and usually that audience was packed full of eager, story-hungry people. This is exactly what happened in Matthew 13, when He spoke to the large crowd from a boat that sat by the populated shore. In the midst of His storytelling, His curious disciples asked Him, "Why do you tell stories?" (verse 10, The Message)

Jesus replied in just a few compelling words. "I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight" (verse 13, The Message). He could've rattled off some articulate spiritual manifesto. But instead, He spoke as He always did, with spiritual directive and purpose. Jesus, the great storyteller, said much even in these few words: that stories are important; that they are readiers, movers, prompters of the heart.

Stories level the playing field of human worth. There's no special training needed to share a story. There's no hierarchy of calling. There's no sensationalistic hook required. Just a life that is changed. A willing heart. A passionate soul.

Why your story? Because you are the best one to tell it. Because it will create space for Jesus in the hearts of those who hear it. Because it will nudge someone toward receptive insight into their Creator. Because someone else can deliver factual information about the experiences of your life, but only you can be the living, breathing representation of its details. There is no one better to make the name of Jesus—master storyteller, whole-life giver—famous.

Holes in Your Story

Let's be honest: on our journey, things get in the way of wholeness. There are roadblocks to our lives being well. Life is complicated by outside factors we cannot control, and Jesus let us know up front this is the way it would be when He said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33, NIV). Things we experience on the outside—struggles we have or issues beyond our control, like health problems—can and do compromise our well-being. But these are not holes. Holes happen within. They are voids in our soul. They are the result of things that happen to us on our journey of life.

Often this involves a confusion about religion, our pathway to God—one of the primary places for Satan, the very real enemy of our souls, to succeed at pulling us away from God. If we can be confused by our religion, we can be limited in our faith. In the lives of many believers, holes have been formed through disappointment in the church, feelings of being judged and misunderstood by other believers, or mistrust for ministry leaders who didn't use their leadership well.

Roles are another big creator of holes—the way we see ourselves and decide our worth based on what we do or who we think we are. Even though we know that our true identity is in Jesus, things threaten to skew it, either making us feel insignificant or causing us to feed on pride.

And then there are our experiences. Big. Life altering. Real. In many ways, these troubling outside factors Jesus is referring to in John 16:33 are what can help create some of our deepest holes. But sometimes it will be our own decisions that change our lives in ways that lead us away from what is pure and good. Other times it may be internal beliefs we hold on to that eat away at our soul. Experiences shape us, and they can create holes. But they don't have to.

Holes take away so much from us. They plunder our vibrant relationship with God. They limit our future and define our past. They prevent us from being well within. They keep us from sharing our whole story.

But with every hole comes an opportunity. In many ways, we need the holes so we will be spurred on to pursue what is better. For every place where we lack the filling of God, He is ready, able, and willing to step in and produce completeness. What was empty, ritualistic religion can become the place where we find a most authentic faith. The role that changes without our permission or makes us feel too important can become the catalyst to make us seek and embrace our true identity. The experiences we gather on the pages of our journey that disrupt, hurt, confuse, and limit us can become the circumstances in which we most see God. So to extend Henri Nouwen's idea, our hindrances produce a way to experience more of our Creator. Holes are not the end of our story. In the wholeness journey, they are truly our beginning.

As Your Journey Begins

Give this moment your full attention.

You can't change what you don't recognize as a problem. Your holes may be giving off signs: discontent, lack of fulfillment, fear, pain, shame, pride, anger ... and as with me, doubt. Pay attention to those signs, because they may be pointing to a great hole that is keeping you from wholeness, limiting your potential for God. But don't stop there. Recognize that even in the depths of those voids, you are on the cusp of vast opportunity.

In the events of my life, as you will soon read, there was always a choice: to live with the things that limited me or to bring them from behind the curtain to provide a platform for change. Sometimes I chose well; sometimes I didn't. (You have this choice, too, even at this moment.) In the midst of my most incredible experiences, even the most painful, there was a groundswell of hope that beauty could come from the ashes. It is one of God's greatest gifts to us—the hopeful promise of turning ugly into beautiful—and it is ours, unconditionally.

Sharing my story has been in many ways more difficult than the exposure of my doubt. Those things I expose in the coming pages, about which I have stayed silent for almost twenty years—my prison break from formulized religion, the excruciating loss of a defining role, the soul refinement of painful experiences—have led to my spirit's exhaling the personal testimony that it is well, it is well with my soul. I marvel at this today, praying that God will continue this work in my life, keenly aware of my very human capacity to fall away from truth, to compromise my own wholeness.

What about you? Is your soul well? Is anything holding you back from that beautiful place called whole?

I pondered these questions myself in the days after my truthful couch session with Monty. And though I preferred to keep my doubt tucked safely behind the curtain, I knew it needed to be allowed a platform so truth could win. Yes, I was a believer in Jesus. Yes, I had come a long way in my faith. Yes, I knew the Bible and loved my Creator. And yes ... I was limited by the doubt in my life that He wanted to use my story. That was the truth, and the truth was ugly. Because it wasn't really about doubt at all; the doubt was just a symptom. It was about the hole that held me back from God.

And as I allowed the dam to break over this thought once again, this time in the privacy of my bedroom closet, I told Jesus, This moment is Yours. Don't hold back. Tell me the whole story.

And in the way only He can, He held my heart as He reminded me of my journey: of the lost things that He restored ... of broken places that He fixed ... of gaping holes that He filled ... of things that had been sick that He made well ... of a little girl who finally found her story, the one she had been living all along.

It is what Jesus, the greatest storyteller of all time, wants to show you. Give this moment to Him. Ask Him not to hold back. And then sit expectantly at the shore of hope as He shares with you the details of your whole story.


Excerpted from {w}hole by LISA WHITTLE Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Whittle. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Hole Story....................1
Chapter 2: The Hole of Religion....................15
Chapter 3: Religion Made Whole....................35
Chapter 4: The Hole of Roles....................59
Chapter 5: Roles Made Whole....................87
Chapter 6: The Hole of Experiences....................117
Chapter 7: Experiences Made Whole....................139
Chapter 8: The Whole Story....................171
About the Author....................199
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 9, 2012

    Thought Provoking

    {W}hole by Lisa Whittle is about how our life experiences, whether good or bad, can leave holes in us. These holes effect how we see ourselves, others and God. Lisa Whittle shares her personal testimony (and holes) throughout this honest and revelatory book. She states, that our experiences and/or roles don't define us. But it's about allowing Jesus Christ to fill our holes, by making us "whole" and thereby re-writing our story.

    This book is jam packed full of incredible insights which made me take my sweet time reading it. I would read a page and then stop to reflect on it. I would find myself underlining passages and then thinking about it the rest of the day. This is one of those special books that can change your life.

    I really appreciate Lisa Whittle's transparency in revealing some very painful and personal experiences in her life. I was able to identify with a lot of what she wrote, especially the feelings accompanying those experiences. It actually stirred me and made me reflect upon my own holes. The holes that I would rather ignore, bury or run from. The holes that came from very pivotal or painful moments in my life, which in turn, changed the course of my life.

    As a result, this book wasn't easy for me to read. However, it was necessary as it was timely.

    I want to share some passages from this book that spoke to me:

    * Often, the things we find most demanding and difficult are the very places we most need to have healed.

    * God seeks our dependence upon Him to make us whole.

    * Wholeness rises from the ashes of our experiences when we cling to the God who makes it all possible.

    I believe this is a very important and helpful book and I highly recommend it to everyone.

    In conclusion, I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    In her book {w}hole, author and speaker Lisa Whittle has provided us with one of the most compelling and personal definitions of redemption to date. By showing that "holes" not only keep us from being "{w}hole", they also have the capacity to make us whole. The crux being a relationship with Jesus, so in addition, this book is also a path to salvation for the non-believer. The language and stories used are so refreshing because they are so real. In the end, she comes full circle to solidify the reality that all we have are our stories, that are real with Jesus at the center of them, and that we need to be telling them. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 29, 2011

    turn your broken parts into a whole

    (W)hole by Lisa Whittle invites the reader to look within herself and find those holes that interfere with a whole relationship with God.

    These holes are the things that we do not like about ourselves, that keep us feeling self-conscious, ashamed, frustrated and worried over. These are some of the things we allow to label us, even though we do not like them. "Fat" could be a hole. "Uneducated" could be a hole. "Short tempered" could be a hole.

    Whittle shares a personal story involving her own childhood and adult experiences that left a deep hole within her and how she allowed God to fill that hole so that her spirit could return to the vibrance it once had.

    At the end of the book, Whittle includes questions to ponder and reflect upon. This book is not preachy and there is not actually a lot of quoted scripture here. Rather it is a more personal telling of how God fills the voids in our lives.

    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion here is entirely my own.

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