I’ve been thinking about souls lately.
I don’t tend to talk about having a soul. All that soulish talk feels like giving into an antiquated dualism: too heavenly minded to be any earthly good and all that.
But as good as our earthly bodies and this created world is, it is our souls that really matter. Because our soul is our soul is our life. (The latin for soul is animus, where we get animate from, meaning to give life.) I tend to forget this sometimes.This isn’t something unique to Catholicism. It was the common-sense attitudes of all Christians: people were souls. Everyone was in the business of saving souls, shepherding souls and ministering to souls until all the souls went off to Heaven. That’s how people spoke.
It is significant that it was only in the last century that C. S. Lewis had to remind us that,
“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
Before that, it was obvious we were souls. And I am finding a reassuring steadiness in knowing I have a soul. Nay, I am a soul.
It seems to me that our souls are those quiet, still wells of life. Whereas I see spirits as red and fiery, souls to me seem pale and almost ghoulish. They are breath and wind and essence. While the word spirit is high-pitched and almost leaps within itself, soul sounds deep. Sooooul.
Have you ever thought about what a soul sounds like?
That’s what I think a soul sounds like.
It seems I’m not the only one to thing souls sound sea-ish. The english word soul, from the Proto-Germanic saiwalo may well be related to saiwaz meaning sea because souls were believed to come from – and return to – the sea.
The psalmist too draws on this connection,
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
– Psalm 42:1-2, 7
For all their immateriality, souls are deep, solid things. Like the sea, they are both nebulous and immovable. But they are real. This is an immensely reassuring thing. I am a soul. It’s an ancient truth that, although I’ve given lip service to it a million times, still seems foreign. I am a soul, encased in skin and choices and fears and fat but still, I am a soul.
And this soul of mine, this essence and life of me, is secure in Christ.
It is the real me and the real me is safe. Compared to this, the rest is bullshit.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
– Mark 8:36-37
For although I can’t see my soul and although I can’t see Christ, I love Him and, in my better moments, I want to lose my life for Him.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
– 1 Peter 1:8-9.
This is the hope of my soul. It is secure, it is immovable. And like all the promises from God,
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
– Hebrews 6:19
This is truth: I have a soul and it is safe in Christ – I am safe in Him. It is well with my soul.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
What does my soul sound like?
With Christ, it sounds like peace.