“You have a soul”
Growing up I was often told that I “have a soul”, which was later a point of humor for anyone that felt like making jest of my red hair!
I have a soul…
I didn’t know what to think about it. I doubt anyone ever does as a child. Was my soul floating around inside me like a fish in a tank? was there a mini-me sitting at the controls of the body? does my soul have any say in on what I think or do? Is my body basically an incubator for my soul?
Eventually, as most children do, I stopped trying to comprehend what I could not know. Then…I went to college. That wonderful center for spiritual and philosophical debate. As I became exposed to other ideas, to logic, and to a deeper study of scripture, I began to realize that I didn’t have all the answer I thought I had. After speaking with my professors and other students, I finally came to the following conclusion.
“You’re not a body with a soul. You’re a soul with a body!”
Through Bible classes and the study of ministry, I was challenged on how I understood body and soul. Py profs pointed out to me that the soul was alive and was active according to scripture. It wasn’t just an appendage and that the soul going to heaven and knowing God, as well as having thought and memory, meant that I wasn’t just a body in possession a soul. The soul was an integral part of my essence.
So if I am a soul with a body, rather than a body with a soul, what did this say about how I function? What value did my body have if I’m just possessing it? Why should I care about my body at all? Truly my soul is all that I should care about.
This was a very profound teaching for me. It gave way to a new understanding of my essence and activeness of the spiritual part of my being. However, Over time I began to note that I was out of balance. Scripture implied to me that I needed to value the physical me as much as the spiritual me.
In my senior year of college, I visited the L’Abri center in England and I was invited to explore the question “what are spiritual acts?”
The answer was vastly more than I had originally thought. It was here that I began to understand that I had been looking at everything wrong.
“You are a soul. You are a body.”
I am singular in my being. I am a body AND I am a soul. One.
I am one.
Adam and Eve were made body and soul before the fall. In their perfect state, they were body-souls. When humanity fell, both body and soul were corrupted because that is what we are.
As I explore Orthodoxy, I am exposed to the reality that this teaching has been apart of the Church for centuries! C.S. Lewis speaks to this in his book “The Great Divorce.” He writes that the separation of the body and soul is a rendering that was never meant to be. Death is the great divorce.
With this understanding, I must accept the need to care for my body, for the care of my body is also the care of my soul and vice versa.
Therefore the answer to the question of what is a spiritual act is…everything. Everything I do is spiritual. Eating, drinking, talking, building relationships, etc. We do not question that our sinful action, although often physical, are spiritual acts. Yet we disregard the reality that everything else we do is also spiritual.
Why does it matter?
This understanding of the body and soul should compel us to think differently about the value of human beings. We as Christians don’t solely have a responsibility to “win souls to God”, but we have a responsibility to the physical world; to redeem all things. This should affect how we worship, how we engage with each other, and how we engage with the entirety of the world around us.
Adam and Eve were mandated with the care of the world. A physical task as a result of their uniquely spiritual attributes. They fell and the Earth was cursed. But Christ came in the flesh! He took upon Himself our physical nature that our physical and spiritual natures might begin restoring. To return us to our original purpose; to return to Eden.