Meditation: The Human Soul

Figure emerges from the comos

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. - Genesis 2:7 

If someone were to ask me (and, just to clarify, no one has) what the biggest problem is in our culture today, my response would be that we have forgotten we have souls. Every challenge we face, every nightmare in our society, and all the ills of our time would be drastically improved if we remembered we have a soul. I do not mean only you and I need to remember, though we certainly do. No, the ones who need to remember – or perhaps, to learn for the first time – are the myriad voices defining personhood and humanity, purpose and meaning. These are our philosophers and doctors, our mental health professionals and our politicians, our educators and, yes, even we, the clergy.

For well over a century now, we have defined a human being as an advanced animal, just the next iteration of evolutionary progress, and we have forgotten human beings have souls. That is tragic indeed. The soul is where we meet God. Unless and until we understand that, religion is reduced to emotion, measured by our highest thought or most creative impulse. Religion is a paltry substitute for life, and our God is the Source of all life. What a tragedy it is to draw near to Him then content ourselves with a shadow of the reality.

Too often, human beings are reduced to nothing more than heart, mind, and body, even in a surprising portion of Christian literature. If we are nothing more than emotions, passions, thoughts, and physicality, then we have nothing to connect us to the Divine, to the One Who breathed into us the breath of life. God gave life to all creatures and to all vegetation, and He is the One Who sustains the life of amoebas and whales, lichen and redwoods, and everything in between. But sustaining a living thing is not the same thing as giving it your own life. I keep most of my plants alive, and my dog appears to be flourishing and healthy. Yet, my son is entirely different. I gave him life, and he is like me, sometimes terrifyingly so.

When we forget about the soul, we forget who and what we are. Like untethered boats, we are tossed here and there without purpose or direction. It can be exciting at first, but rides we cannot end quickly become exhausting. Slowly, humanity is reduced to nothing more than the animal life the atheists would have us believe we are. There is nothing majestic or noble about a human being, nothing unique and sacred. The atheists have won. We have become animals – animals that consume voraciously, fight for position, sulk in loss, reproduce indiscriminately, and act with little conscience. That last one may be a little unfair to animals.

The soul, received from the breath of God Himself, is what makes us human, different from every other living thing in existence. The conscience arises in the soul, and without access to the conscience, we are unable to discern right from wrong, good from evil. Inevitably, when the eye of the soul is dark, the mind understands nothing correctly, and the heart does not love anything well, not even the self. When we forget that we have a soul, the breath God that gives us life does not go away. No, it warps, twists, and perverts. The radiant and holy image of God, the intelligence, imagination, dominion, and speech are darkened until confusion no longer exists, replaced by crass, base caricatures of humanity that cannot survive in the light.

The next time you are assessing some challenge you have encountered or see some problem you think needs solving, jot down your thoughts. Wait a while, then go back and look to see which answer connects you to the breath of Life given to you by your Father. If all of your answers come from the wisdom of this world, from human minds and hearts, there is a strong possibility you do not have a good answer. Unless we understand the reality of the human soul, our best answer or explanation can only masquerade as correct.

We continue with the Lenten season – a time set aside for repentance and penance, for the renewal of our lives as God’s children, beginning with our souls. Whether you realize it or not, your soul is panting for God, thirsting for the living God. From Him, springs of living water pour forth for you, abundantly and endlessly. Turn your soul to Him, quietly, in prayer, fasting, and service, then wait for His refreshing.

The breath of life that makes you human also instills the insatiable longing for the One we have forgotten. I pray the light of our Lord will permeate the depths of your soul.

In Christ –

Elizabeth Moreau © 2020

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