So the new preacher started yesterday in rousing fashion, his lesson centered in the ancient Jewish commandment which is the centerpiece of the Torah, and reaffirmed years later by Jesus as the most important commandment.
“Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” – Mark 12:30
Chris Goldman (the preacher) referenced the idea that these four aspects of human experience–heart, soul, mind, and strength–are distributed in varying degrees within each of us, and our orientation to life will be determined, in some degree, by which of the four is strongest in us. As we talked about this last week, it was generally agreed upon that among the four catalyst leaders of the NW Church, I was the one in whom “soul” was strongest.
What’s funny about this is that I’ve been pushing against the “saving souls” language of evangelistic efforts for a long time, arguing that its the entire person that’s gets redeemed, not just the amorphous soul.
However, that being said…
Soul is an odd word, a mischievous word, a word to mess with your mind. Many hours have no doubt been wasted trying to hang a definition on this mystic noun. Wikipedia does a decent job of roaming around the possibilities, generally locating it among the metaphysical depths. Say soul, and we think non-cognition, or perhaps below-cognition (as in “deep”), that which drops even below feeling and emotion, perhaps best linked with intuition, hunch, and gut-instinct (although Goldman gave “gut feelings” to the realm of the heart.) We know from “soul music” that soul also deals in powerful experience, experience that somehow vaults beyond cognition and feeling, either through transcendent ecstasy or profound suffering, moving beyond language’s ability to describe, demanding poetry and music and the movement of the body according to impulses rising from the core. (Again, think “depths.”)
Thomas Moore famously wrote Care of the Soul back in the 1990’s, sparking a new ease with the term, and, following the line of James Hillman, sparked a fresh understanding of soul’s connection with material. Seems that “soul” is best cared for by certain aspects of physical and cognitive being: beauty, poetry, paying attention, prayer, meditation, relishing the rich texture of foods, or conversely, relishing the rich texture of fasting. Who knew that the quality of soul depended so heavily on the ways in which we lived with our physical, cognitive, and emotional selves?
So on the staff, I’m the soul guy.
It’s true, I guess. I want to linger, listen, walk down madly flowered streets, pay attention to the taste and texture of strawberries. Sensuality doesn’t scare me, and there is a feel to words in my mouth that I like. Dance is foreign to me, but the body is central. Profundity strikes me as the basic reality, mystery the essential orientation, and faith as the doorway to worlds far beyond our dreams. Necessity is a burden, the stuff of tragicomedy, and soul would throw all that aside. To Goldman’s credit, he pointed out that soul left to itself, without the correctives of heart, mind, and strength, would soon find itself in holes dug so deep, it can’t find it’s way out. (True, true…been there, done that.)
So in later years, God’s given me new insight on my heart and strength, and the balance is better. But soul keeps calling to me. And I can’t help but believe God’s Spirit roams around down there, in the unseen deep places of Jeff, arranging, calling, inspiring, protecting, nurturing, leading.
Hard to talk about, this ongoing redemption.
Still, soul remains…
One Reply to “Soul”
Thank you, Jeff, for writing this post about soul. If your readers or you are interested in Thomas Moore’s work, visit Barque, a blog dedicated to his writings. He seems to share your approach of “there is a feel to words in my mouth that I like” through his careful phrasing and descriptions. We need more appreciation and understanding of “soul’s connection with material” during these difficult times. Please explore this topic further.