“A healthy person is someone who is integrated….all aspects of [that] person are connected...The body, soul and mind are all working together.”
Or, in Oliver’s case, every possible “state” is “in concert.” Once strictly compartmentalized, the borders between different areas of his life became increasingly permeable over the course of the series, and reached a critical stage in Higher Ground, where his most impenetrable border wall finally fell.
In Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again, we witnessed Oliver attempt to operate in a suddenly border-less “state” where new horizons abounded, and where his success in such a space hinged on his ability to embrace the opportunity to draw and define new lines in which to operate, and, at the same time, outside of which he could color.
It was not only Oliver’s task to define the outer limits of this space, but also to “connect” all the elements inside, so that they might seamlessly “work..together” from the inside out. We saw this in his relationship with Shane, and his evolving approach to his work, both of which converged in his wardrobe to reveal the state of his heart and mind. Across two “states” and a “district” we, through Oliver, discovered the true nature of personal integration in a tangible and applicable way.
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that integration is a messy process. It’s about grappling with the incongruent, or even straight up contradictory, pieces of our hearts and minds. We all have them---and it’s an issue we all deal with each day in some small measure.
But for people like Oliver, who exited one season and entered another in a truly epic manner coming out of Higher Ground, it meant sorting through things on a much larger scale. Oliver had to reassess both his personal and professional lives in their entirety, employing careful scrutiny to his attitudes and perspectives, giving way to significant personal development. The goal, of course, to make him one continuous person from the inside, out.
“Sooner or later you’re going to have to face it: The old DLO is now the new online shipping room. We aren’t going back there.”
”New horizons, Oliver.”
They’re simple phrases, but powerful reminders to Oliver of the imperative to move forward. Most of us will admit we don’t possess the individual will to motivate ourselves through the rigorous process of moving forward into a new season, which is why we can’t do it alone.
Oliver received support from Shane to embrace the new work environment and encouragement to expand his horizons. Dale provided Oliver with a key perspective shift to help him move forward in his relationship with Shane. Oliver even specifically sought the counsel of his father and Rita’s parents about next steps in the Kellser case.
Successful integration requires not only our best effort, but some people around us to let us know when our words and actions aren’t in agreement as gentle course correction. It also means we need to reach out to others when we aren’t sure what our next move should be, so we can keep moving forward in our integration process.
Getting and seeking wisdom is important, but it does nothing if we don’t choose to engage in the new behaviors, and employ the new perspectives, that come along with them. Oliver’s success hinged upon his ability to apply the wisdom he received.
When it came to the Kellser case, Oliver’s unusual decision to read Joe and Rita’s parents in on “postal business” to discern “how best to proceed” showed his willingness to seek counsel in difficult situations. All things considered, Oliver ultimately chose to prioritize both his obligation to the Kellsers, and the “obligat[ion] to confirm what [they] were delivering.” He then coordinated the efforts of his team around them. Not only did he seek and receive wisdom, he made the choice to act on it.
...deciding what to hang onto, and what to let go.
Life is complicated. And the fact of the matter is, a lot of us walk around hanging onto things we need to let go of, thought we let go of, or simply no longer serves us in the season we’re in. It’s at that point we need to take a critical look at what those things are, and decide what to do with them.
Most notably, Oliver had to let go of Dale. This had to happen in order for him to be successful in his relationship with Shane, both in Home Again and moving forward. Letting Dale go also signaled Oliver was ready to release his past in favor of his future.
Making these choices in his personal life also conditioned Oliver to make similar decisions in the professional realm. Relinquishing control over the fate of the recently discovered annex, however unintentional, revealed Oliver readiness to release some measure of control where the physical environment was concerned, which ultimately freed him to take more meaningful---and more pertinent---control of the Kellser case.
When Oliver made choices about what to hold onto, and what to let go of, he also removed potential obstacles for growth, which, through their exclusion, provided him the freedom to identify and pursue those relationships, and professional paths, through which he could grow.
Integration is not always just about tackling the difficult things, it’s also about celebrating what’s already good and right in our lives. We see this most clearly in the opening sequence of Home Again, as Oliver pursued Shane by decking out his wardrobe in ways that connected to her, brought her coffee, and walked her to work. When it was within his power to recognize and honor her, Oliver did so without reservation, a celebration of its own kind.
...embracing the “bad” pieces of the past and of ourselves.
Depending on your perspective, it might be easier to discern and celebrate the good than it is to acknowledge and address the “bad,” or the pieces of ourselves, and the past, that are complicated, and distort our internal picture of who we are, and how we relate to the world. But in order to become “a healthy person” with “all aspects of [ourselves] connected and working together,” we have to find a way for both the “good” and “bad” to coexist.
That starts with acknowledging that we have places that need to change---some we know about and others people have to point out to us. Oliver had people like Shane and Dale to point these out to him, and is why it’s important we, too, are in community. Owning them, like Oliver did, gives us a chance to start addressing limiting mindsets and tendencies with the potential to hold us back from becoming who God made us to be, and the truest, most fulfilled---and even best---versions of ourselves. Denial has no place here.
Oliver expressed his ability to embrace the “bad” on two particular occasions in Home Again. The first, and perhaps most important, example is when he so readily and comfortably explained the source of his “wealth.” As Papa O’Toole so astutely told Oliver in Truth Be Told, “Accepting Harvey’s money also meant accepting the truth,” which Oliver finally seemed to do as he described himself as the “custodian” of funds given to him “by a father he never knew.” He could have very well said “a relative” or used some other distancing term. Instead, Oliver chose to use the word “father,” to own what was a “bad” and particularly painful piece of his parentage, and to do so much good by utilizing his inheritance.
...a [solid] foundation for the future.
Integration is not an end in and of itself---it’s meant for something. It’s meant to allow us the opportunity to become all God calls us to be---the best versions of ourselves. And not just for our own sake, but for the sake of those we love, and for the sake of those with whom we come in contact, both in a personal and professional capacity. So that we might do what we’re called to in new and more fulfilling ways, and that we might have an impact on, and in, this world.
We watched Oliver transform into the best version of himself throughout Home Again. He became a man more empowered, and better equipped, to conduct himself in the context of relationship moving forward, particularly where Shane was concerned.
His decision to use Foundation funds was not only evidence of his expanded understanding of his calling, and the manner in which he fulfilled that calling, but also demonstrated a profound understanding of his participation in something “Greater than himself.”
Remember that a Living Lands Conservancy meant that the farm “could never be sold,” meaning that future generations of the Kellser family could live there. Similarly, the agricultural education requirement possessed the potential to reach countless people, and even change countless lives, moving forward. Oliver’s potential impact could extend far beyond what he might ever live to see.
And it’s a decision Oliver never would have made, or a legacy he might never have created, if not for doing the hard work the journey to becoming a “healthy person” required of him.
From a storytelling perspective it was inevitable that the Oliver we met in the Pilot would evolve into the man he is today. What we didn’t know is what exactly that process might look like, or what catalyst might bring it about at different stages. But inevitability isn’t reserved for Oliver, integration is inevitable for us in the real world, too.
If the seasons change, we should expect to change, too. But, like most things, change is a choice---one each of us must make for ourselves.
Oliver’s Home Again journey was a critical stage in his development, comprised of a dynamic integration process. This kind of personal development and assessment derived from increased self-awareness is not for the faint of heart, but it is an important step on the path to healing. And, like Oliver, we can transform into the best versions of ourselves when undertake the challenge, and become a “healthy” person in touch with every part of ourselves---from our personal and professional worlds to our wardrobe. That’s the version of ourselves that God calls us to be---invite Him into the process of helping you become that person. I can attest that has truly made all the difference for me.
And for those of you shuddering at the prospect of integration, either because of the hard work it will require, or the aspects of your past and present that make it appear impossible, know that it is possible---particularly with God at the center---and that you are in good company.
The United States of Oliver: Balance | Mission | District of Integration, Part I & Part II | Articles Confederated