The name of the counseling and equipping organization I founded over fifteen years ago is called Restoring the Soul.
I wish I could say it was an original name, conjured up in my imagination. But all the credit goes to King David.
In Psalm 23 David wrote the following words:
“He restores my soul, and guides me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.”
In the past I’ve written and taught about how God restores our soul. I’ve also written about what it means that he does this “for his names sake.”
Today I want to ask an even more basic question: What is a soul?Today I want to ask an even more basic question: What is a soul? Click To Tweet
In both testaments of scripture, the soul is most frequently understood as “the mind, will, and emotions.” However, the richest meaning of soul is the idea of the “the innermost self.”
Or as Ruth Haley Barton describes, “the soul is the most real part of who you are.”
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what is a soul. That’s why I appreciate Ronald Rollheiser’s description of the soul. In his book, Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality he writes:
“What is a soul? It would be interesting to record impressions of what comes to mind spontaneously when one hears the word soul. For many of us, I suspect, the word, to the extent that it conjures up anything at all, produces an image, a very vague one, of some white, semi-invisible, spiritual tissue paper that floats deep inside of us and which takes on stains when we sin and that will separate from the body at the moment of death…
What is wrong with that conception, though, is that it separates the soul too much from the core of our persons, from our conscious identity. Our soul is not something that we have, it is more something we are. It is the very life-pulse within us, that which names us alive.”Our soul is not something that we have, it is more something we are. Click To Tweet
Understanding that your soul is not something you have, but something you are is crucial. And getting clarity about “what is a soul” is more than sharpening the blade of theological precision.
Understanding your soul will be the difference between whether you experience Christianity as true or whether you experience it as real.
On a regular basis I talk with seminary educated people who believe Christianity is utterly true but who have never experienced it (or God) as real.
In future blog posts I’ll be writing more about the soul. I hope you’ll join me.
Question: What has come to mind for you in the past when hearing the word ‘soul’? What part of Rollheiser’s quote strikes a chord with you?