Invitation to Rest

Invitation to Rest

Living Life from the Inside Out

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What is a Soul?

I have been reading a couple of books recently about the soul and wanted to share a couple of things I have encountered in the reading.  One book I am reading is “Soul Keeping” by John Ortberg. He has an entire chapter where he tries to define the soul.  With insight and a sense of humor he describes all of the different ways we use the term soul such as;  a company has a soul, certain music has a soul, Christians save “souls”….We use the term a lot but it is more difficult to truly define.  Have you ever gone browsing for something in the store and you don’t have anything definitely in mind?  When you go and a sales associate asks you what your are looking for, you say “I’ll know it when I see it?”.  Maybe it’s a little like that with the soul.  We know it when we experience it, whether in moments where all of life just feels right and at other times when we feel disconnected and experiencing a level of distress.  It is just hard to describe what the soul really is.  So here are few interesting quotes from this book I find helpful:

"Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and his kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream. Therefore we are in harmony with God, reality, and the rest of human nature and nature at large."

"What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings."

Both of these quotes describe the soul as what lies underneath every other aspect of our lives and provides a connection between each part of life. Sometimes we put focus on those aspects of our lives such as relationships, job, self image… because these things are more tangible and we have some sense of visual confirmation of what they are.  But what really needs our attention is the soul as it is what is truly the unseen entity which give us a sense of wholeness.

Ruth Haley Barton in her book “Strengthening The Soul of Your Leadership” provides this description of the soul:

"I am talking about the part of you that is most real -- the very essence of you that God knew before he brought you forth in physical form, the part that will exist after your body goes into the ground. This is the “you” that exists beyond any role you play, any job you perform, any relationship that seems to define you, or any notoriety or success you may have achieved. It is the part of you that longs for more of God than you have right now, the part that may, even now, be aware of “missing” God amid the challenges of life."

So, what is the soul?  Maybe the best description of all is how Psalm 103:1 describes the soul so succinctly:

Bless the Lord, O my Soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.

The soul is “all that is within me”.

In other posts we can discuss more about caring for the soul.  But for the moment, it is fair to say our soul is incredibly important. While I so often tend to focus on the external things of life, it is the soul within me that truly needs my priority. 

How about you? How is your soul?  Take a few moments today to spend some quiet time with the Lord and allow Him to speak to you about the condition of your soul.

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