Thursday, February 25, 2021

Nourishing the Soul

 May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit (pneuma) and soul (psyche) and body (soma-life) be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. 

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

It is an exercise in metacognition to be able to think about our feelings:  to step back from them and use vocabulary to name and describe them, which is more than just experience and act on them.  When a person can engage in such self-awareness, it causes them to be able to use their emotions rightly and not just be reactive.  This is a basic practice in emotions management.

Similarly, with that same kind of self-aware cognition, I can begin to think about my soul.  I wonder what is my soul, different from the whole of whoever I may be.  I wonder how I can recognize my soul, differentiated from my heart or spirit.  In teaching others about their spiritual selves, I realize we must grasp the greaterness of the depths of being.  To fail to do so is to live reactively if we cannot locate a language and understanding of the soul.

I realized my physical center--my heart-- gives me the metaphorical lesson for my soul.  My heart sustains my body.  Even my brain cannot operate without my heart.  And though my heart can function with minimal brain activity, it is also dependent upon my brain.  For my heart to be at its best, I must take care of my body by keeping it fit and active, or my heart fails.  The interdependence of my body, brain and heart is clear.

So, my soul. 

My soul sustains my life.  My spirit cannot operate without my soul.  And though my soul, which is my identity, can function with minimal spirit(ual) activity, it is dependent and enlivened by my spirit.  For my soul to be its healthiest/fullest/truest self, I must take care of the entirety of my life by keeping it engaged in righteous pursuits and relationships or my soul loses its fulfilment, its greatest capacity.  The interdependence of my spirit, soul and life is clear, especially in the pursuit of blamelessness, complete blamelessness, as Paul writes here.  The language here means to be preserved completely for a whole and righteous life.  To be blameless means to have no cause for disapproval and to be free from fault or defect.

The metaphor continues.  For my heart to be well, my doctors and medical community say I need to exercise and to be selective about what I eat (less sugar and fat, and more plants) and less gluttonous about what I eat.  Exercise needs to be regular (as in daily) and with enough exertion to raise my heart activity to what they call cardio. 

So, my soul.

For my soul to be well (and souls do become sick and damaged, unable to sustain a healthy life), I need to engage in spiritual activities and be selective and less gluttonous with intake of worldly activities.  What is the “sugar” of this world that sets up my lifestyle to damage my soul?  Maybe idolatrous practices of which I can’t get enough and which completely distract me from God, such as addictions to TV, social media, shopping, food, or other substance abuse.  And the gluttony:  those behaviors which are legitimate needs of the soul, such as relationships or service to God, in which I indulge to the exclusion of God and to the condition of my soul. 

The activities/exercise for my soul need to be regular (daily) and with enough passion and engagement to raise my soul activity to a level that engages the power of God and brings the energy necessary to strengthen and sustain my soul.

Like a heart which can get injured through accident or attack, the soul can be harmed, too.  And like the heart, which can be healed with the intervention practices of a doctor, so can the soul be healed by the practices of spiritual healers and guides who use prayer, companionship and coaching into wellness.  The Greek word for soul is psyche.  Those spiritual guides and healers could be called psychologists, but they could also be called prayer warriors and partners, sponsors and mentors, and friends. 

Jesus would call us brethren, which means “of the womb,” those who are born into new life by His work on the cross and the Holy Spirit’s engagement in this new life. To know and nurture your soul, you must be born again, Jesus would say, into a community of reborn souls and sustained by a soul-healthy lifestyle and a soul-fitness community.  I would call it the Kingdom of God.

To use the metaphor shamelessly, when the heart is strengthened for exertion and endurance, it can stand the rigors of a demanding life; it can bear the physical burdens of caring for household and community well into old-age; it can lead the rest of the body into wellness if injured or attacked.

So, the soul.

The soul, strengthened, will respond and enable a strong lifestyle on a parallel level to my heart responding to the care and exercise it receives.  The soul then can be equipped to bear the demands and burdens of the struggle with sin.  It can then carry the heavy load of loss and grief of self and others.  The soul can forge new paths and develop a life that serves the greater good and bears the glory of God into a hurting world.  Only a strong soul can carry that weight. Then the entirety of what is life will be preserved (taken care of, guarded; specifically from external attack).  It will be a fortress.





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