I find myself now on the dark side of 40. To be honest, I feel pretty good. I get outside quite a bit and work. I eat pretty well and can still run a mile or two without stopping. But I know I am wearing down. I am not 18 any more. I look in the mirror and see grey whiskers sprinkled in there. I see the sags and wrinkles starting to succumb to gravity.
And some days it is hard not to look in that mirror and think, what is happening to me?
Years ago, I came across this quote by George MacDonald, although some attribute it to C.S. Lewis and a few others. Regardless, it has helped me understand how screwed up my thinking about myself, my true nature, can be:
“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
I think the implications of this are huge: when we see our primary being, our essence, as being our bodies, we get a distorted understanding of our true nature. It is like looking at our shadow and saying, “That’s what’s real. That’s the real me there on the ground, my shadow,” when in fact the exact opposite is true. I think we often look at our souls, our spiritual essence, as some kind of shadow that follows the real us around. Bodies don’t have souls. Souls have bodies. Huge difference.
And I think knowing that we are a soul, ad don’t have a soul, helps us see things differently:
Remembering that we don’t have a soul, but that we are a soul reminds us that we are strangers here in this perishing physical world. Our souls go on. Our bodies get left behind. Whose to say what the next world will be like, our next bodies? I don’t know, but I am pretty sure they won’t be like the ones we have now. What I do know is that my soul will be me.
Remembering that we don’t have a soul, but that we are a soul reminds us that this physical world is, at the end of the day, empty, perishing. Souls don’t need money. They don’t need food or clothing or shelter. Souls don’t perish, they live forever. Maybe this is why Jesus told us not to worry about such things.
Remembering that we don’t have a soul, but that we are a soul reminds us that we can share a special connection God, who is Himself a soul, a spirit. Our desire, our hope, our faith, our connection with Him, happens primarily through our soul.
Peter wrote in his first letter to the churches to the same effect:
“…live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect…so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:17-21)
Our souls make us strangers to the physical world, makes the physical ’empty,’ and brings us back, redeems us back to God, through the blood of Christ. That’s who we are, not just what we have.
I think that’s pretty good news.