Abiding in Soul…..
In the journey of life, which is really the journey of the soul in the physical realm, there is always much to learn, though it is the unlearning that is often hard and the part that generally gets in the way of the journey. We have been taught that a soul is something we possess, something that can be lost in a realm called “sin;” if your soul is lost in sin, then you, too, are lost. The words “soul” and “you” have been interchangeable in much of our religious understanding. This implies that you, alone, are responsible for your soul, it also implies that you have some kind of control over this realm of soul, that the certainty of its future can be determined by your will. Yet, the soul is that part of you that is simply made alive by a Divine spark none of us can comprehend, even in our best science, we cannot define what gives life. The ancient Hebrews called it ruach or the breath of God, breathed into all creation, spoken into being, created. This doesn’t sound like the kind of thing we have much control over at all. After all, as humans, we kill things, and our ability to kill gives us a kind of illusion of power over life. However, the one thing that continues to shatter this illusion is that we cannot kill the soul and it makes us uncomfortable. Because in the soul, we are connected to one another, to God and to all creation. In Christianity, we call this resurrection, the awakened soul. Our ability to connect with soul is truly our salvation, the mystery that remains.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes speaks of the soul as the you that cannot be killed. Jesus says so, too, that there are those that can kill the body but not the soul. But how do we connect with our soul life when we feel so disenchanted, so tired, so lonely? When we seem to live in a world that feeds on despair and suffering? Who has time to think about a soul and why is it important anyway?
I have heard it said that it is not so much that our soul lives in our body as it is our body that lives in a soul. David Tacey, a Jungian scholar, discusses the soul as that aspect of creation that is connected to the larger soul of the Divine that is in and through all. Soul connects us to one another and to creation itself, it is what is alive in us. (from “The Edge of the Sacred.”) The poet Wendell Berry has said “there are no unsacred places, only sacred and desecrated spaces” in the world. The soul is the sacred place in us and also in the world where we commune with God.
Celtics have spoken of “thin spaces” where the veil between us and God is lifted. Perhaps you have experienced such a thin place, moments where you sense you are more than just flesh and bone surviving in the world, that you are connected to others, to creation. Perhaps you have even had the thought that you could thrive, not just merely survive, in the world. This is the soul life seeking to live in you, seeking to commune with God. Our souls are lonely for God, they are a kind of God vacuum, yearning for communion. When we are disconnected from our soul life, we are not well because it is our very life force.
It seems counterintuitive that we should be off seeking a soul life when there is so much pain in the world that just needs tending. But that’s just it, in order to heal the pain of the world and our pain as well, we have only our story to tend to, as we find healing in our soul home, we begin to become healing agents for the world around us. Jesus tells us this is simply how it works, that we have to take care of that large wooden plank (to use a carpenter’s metaphor) in our own eye before we can see to remove the splinter from our neighbor’s life. In other words, we don’t do the fixing, God does, we abide in God and surrender to God’s activity in us, one day at a time, seeking unity. A state of mind that we cultivate as we move through life, going about our daily work.
Abiding in the soul. I think of the soul as the body’s home for this journey, it is what gives us a sense of home wherever we are, it is the true real. It is what we are most lonely for, God. It is the house that Lady Wisdom has built with the pillars that hold up the cosmos, and invites us to abide in, to come and feast in always, to live, the soul. (Proverbs 9) Upon the walls of this house are written the words of your very life, that story that is your story, unique to you, to be lived out only by you, God’s words, the sacred.
In our day and age, we live in a time when we seem to be cut off from our souls, the feast, the banquet God has set out for us even in the very presence of those forces that seek to do us in. (Psalm 23). So we starve, spiritually, we become quite sick, all the while our soul home, the place where we are not tortured by desire, where we “lie down in green pastures,” and are led, “beside still waters,” the place where our soul is restored, awaits us always if we would only grant ourselves permission to enter in.
Abiding in soul is a way of living each day, one day at a time, with the awareness that we are simply not in control of this thing called life. What a relief! Instead of having to keep watch over all the world, the endless 24 hour news cycle, the constant emails and status updates, the need to out perform everyone, the pressure of being epic, we can relax knowing that we are made unique and special by the one story written upon the walls of our very souls. As we find this story, we become truly alive and live in unity with God and creation. It is this unity that brings about healing. Coincidentally, this was Jesus’ parting prayer, that God would make us all one as he and God were one.
After all, you can spend your entire life looking for a home that is already within you. (Luke 17:21)