What makes you ‘you’, your vital spark, your inner you? How many current uses of the word ‘soul’ can you come up with: ‘poor wee soul’, ‘soul mate’, ‘soul food, ‘soul searching’, ‘from the depths of my soul!’ ‘number of souls aboard this ship’, ‘soul music’, Disney movie, etc. Irrespective of religious belief it’s a word that people use to describe a human’s ‘identity’ and ‘inside world’, which could include: body, mind, will, heart, spirit, thought, attitude, choice, feelings, etc.
Homer Simpson demonstrated his shallowness by selling his soul to the devil for a measly donut to satisfy his craving and hunger. In contrast Jesus resisted temptations to deny his depth of character and identity as The Son of God, saying ‘No’ to: turning rocks into buns, swallow diving from a skyscraper and bypassing crucifixion for comfortable early retirement far from Jerusalem.
John Ortberg’s book ‘Soul Keeper’ illustrates well the importance of feeding and looking after your inner world. He suggests “The World has replaced the word soul with the word self …the more we focus on our selves, the more we neglect our souls.” Thus, by living our lives ‘out there’ in busyness, performance and hyperactivity, chasing after material goods, richer lifestyles, kudos among peers and neighbours, and scaling social and career ladders, all too easily we drown out our inner voice (soul) telling us to slow down and listen to our body, heart, mind (soul) and ‘still small voice of God’. “Then sings my self, my Saviour God to Thee…” lacks something, doesn’t it?
“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet lose their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26 / NIV) Willard helps Ortberg see that Jesus is not giving a ‘destination’ for the soul here (heaven or hell) but a ‘diagnosis’. How easily the neglect of our soul can lead to a lostness and lack of purpose and direction in life. Thus when life’s storms come and ‘it hits the proverbial fan’ we lose our way if our identity is invested in and tied up with the exterior rather than the interior world of ‘soul and spirit’. Like the builder who pitched his house on sand all we worked for is washed away.
And so, in this time of rest and recreation, I challenge you and myself to pay more attention to your soul identity. Underneath it all, who are you, and who are you becoming? A daughter / son of The One True King? How are you guarding, feeding, exercising, freeing and stretching this inner world, to make room to receive and channel more of God’s life and love? Give it Soul my friends!
For those of you able to access Youtube, check out a music video from Matt West ‘Hello, my name is’, to encourage you.