Sweet nectar pools deep in the heart of an angraecoid orchid, a flower so intricately designed that only one species of long-tongued moth can reach the nectar and thereby transfer the orchid’s pollen. Deep in the human heart dwells a soul, so wonderfully made that only its Creator can reach its depths and know perfectly the life it contains.
Your soul defines who you are. It is the truest, deepest part of your being. God beautifully and intricate-ly designed it for eternity, and the human soul stands at the pinnacle of creation, the masterwork of the Master of the Universe.
Scripture tells us that God created humans in His own image and that, even after the Fall, even after we became sinful and broken, we continue to bear the image of God. The soul forms part of this divine reflection. Bearing God’s image doesn’t describe what we look like or how we walk around on two legs or that we can think abstractly; instead, it means that God placed in us a spiritual spark that allows us to know and love Him.
So, how does this God-reflecting image, though shattered and smudged by sin, shape who we are? What does this spiritual core, hidden in the recesses of our hearts, do? What happens in your soul?
The most significant answer is simply that our souls enable us to know God and to love him. Of course, our minds can know about God. With our brains, we can study scripture and theologize about God’s nature. But it’s the soul that engages in relationship with the Almighty. The soul alone has the capacity to love its Cre-ator in ways that our minds cannot fully comprehend or shape into words. Our souls experience God and com-mune with him. Our souls sense God’s glory and fathom His majesty.
God also granted the soul the faculty to experience feelings that run deeper and more abidingly than emotions. For example, within the soul, we feel sorrow and joy. People sometimes laugh at fond memories shared during a loved one’s funeral, but that laughter does not remove the sorrow of grief. In another moment, tears of sadness may fall even as the joy of Jesus’ resurrection promise flows through the heart. The feelings that take shape in the soul do not easily bend with the winds of emotion.
Shame and peace also happen in the soul. We feel, deep in our hearts, a desire to hide our sin from God, like Adam covering his nakedness with fig leaves. Our souls feel shame until we confess and seek God’s forgiveness. Then our souls find peace, and we can walk afresh in the garden with the Lord at our side.
Part of my calling as a pastor, perhaps the most important and mysterious part, is shepherding souls, helping people exercise their hearts in order to deepen their relationship with God. We feed our souls as we read God’s word and as we worship and pray. We nurture our souls through fellowship with other believers and through acts of Christ-like love.
One prescription for our souls flows from Philippians 4:8, telling us, “[W]hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” As we fill our minds and hearts with what is good and true and beautiful, our souls open to God’s loving presence.