Friday, May 31, 2024

Heart and 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

I have only recently begun to be able to think about my soul.  I wondered about my soul.  I wondered what it was, differentiated from my "life" or "spirit."  Then, I realized my physical heart gives me the metaphorical lesson for my soul.

In a literal sense, my heart sustains my body.  Even my brain cannot operate without my heart.  Although 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 body, brain and heart is clear.

So, my soul.  It sustains my life.  My spirit cannot operate without my soul.  Although 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 fulfillment, its greatest capacity.  The interdependence of my spirit, soul and life is clear, especially in the pursuit to be whole, righteous (as I ought to be) and wholly God's.

The metaphor continues.  For my heart to be well, my doctors (medical community) say I need to exercise and be selective (less sugar and fat/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 worldly intake.  

What is the "sugar" of this world that sets up my lifestyle to damage my soul?  Idolatrous practices, of which I can't get enough and which completely distract me from God, and includes addictions to pornography, TV, food, power, money....  And then the gluttony:  those behaviors which are legitimate needs of the soul (like food for the heart) but in which I engage in excess.  These include relationships and service to God, which I indulge in sometimes to the exclusion of God.  All contribute to the wear and tear of my soul.  

For a healthy soul, the activities and exercise for my soul need to be regular (daily) and with enough passion and engagement to raise my soul activity to a level that brings energy which strengthens and sustains my soul.  

Like a heart which can get injured through accident or attack, the soul can be harmed.   And like the heart, which can be healed through the intervention practices of a doctor, so the soul can be healed by the intervention practices of spiritual healers and guides who use prayer, companionship and coaching for wellness.  The Greek word for soul is psyche.  Those spiritual guides and healers could be called psychologists, but they could also be called prayer partners, sponsors, mentors or friends.  Jesus would call us brethren, which means "of the womb." I take this to mean 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 other reborn souls and sustained by a soul-healthy lifestyle, which includes a soul-fitness community known as the Kingdom of God.  Then the entirety of what is life will be preserved (taken care of, guarded; specifically, from external attack).  It will be a fortress.

To use the metaphor shamelessly, when the heart is strengthened through 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, even when injured or attacked.

So, the soul, when it is strengthened, it can bear the psychological, social and spiritual burden of caring for household and community into old age; it can lead a life into wellness, even if injured or attacked. The soul will respond and enable a strong lifestyle on a parallel level to my heart responding to the care and exercise it receives.  My soul is then equipped to bear the demands and burdens of the struggle with sin.  It is prepared to carry the heavy load of loss and grief, of testing and suffering.  The soul can then forge new paths and develop a life that serves the greater good and bears the glory of God into a hurting world.

Lord, lead me into soul-training!  This life needs the strength of a strong soul!  Amen!