I’ve always known what I believe, but I haven’t always felt it. And sometimes my thoughts don’t always reflect what I believe deep down. Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar position. I hate that my body and mind are capable of betraying me, and they’re all too often more than willing, it seems, to do so. This leads me to the conclusion that our real self is not our body nor our mind. I know that’s confusing, but have you ever felt something you didn’t want to feel or that you knew you shouldn’t be feeling? Our emotions are part of our physical body and are reactions to the environment and stimuli around us. So if we can be outside of our emotions, you know that you are more than a physical body. Passages from the Bible reflect this idea. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). Jesus himself describes this phenomenon when he warned his disciples that their bodies will not always do what their souls want. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 NIV).
Some would say that our minds are our true being, our real self. But have you ever had wayward thoughts? Your mind keeps going to a place it shouldn’t go; you tell it to stop, but it won’t listen. I have known my mind to be obstinate and treacherous. During a particularly hard time in my life, my mind insisted on thinking about unhealthy things, such as death, hundreds of times a day. I did not want to be thinking about death all day long. It was exhausting; it brought about debilitating fear. It was not healthy, and I knew it. I didn’t want to be thinking those thoughts. Thoughts, like emotions, also may be a product of our environment. But the ability to be outside of our thoughts allows us then to come to the conclusion that your mind is not you. There then has to be more, a spirit, a soul. Paul spoke of the “inner being” in Romans, a disconnect between what we want to do and what we actually do, between the seen and the unseen. “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25a).
The fact that that I am still capable of having doubts, in spite of everything I have experienced and in spite of everything God has shown me, is endlessly frustrating to me. It shows how fallen and sinful my nature is. Paul’s perspective leads us to the discussion of why our physical being can be so contrary. Perhaps at one time the body and soul were wrapped together in unified harmony. However, the fall of man severed that connection. The soul, as C.S. Lewis put it, “became a mere lodger in its own house.” (From The Problem of Pain).
I met someone the other day who said he believed he is without a soul. He believes that when he dies he will return to the ground and stay there. I can’t even entertain the thought. The ability of humans to be imaginative and creative has to come from somewhere. I see the world around us as a reflection of both the intricacy and vastness of the Lord.
It is important to take note that if the Holy Spirit dwells within you, your body is a temple. We are made in the image of God. I am definitely not saying that we can do whatever we want because our true self is our soul. The early church in Corinth had this mistaken belief, but Paul set them straight in his letters to them (1 and 2 Corinthians). Sin of the flesh affects entire person because it affects the body.
If you are feeling betrayed by your body or mind today, remember that they are not who you are.
From Plain Words to Children by William Walsham How
“What a wonderful thing the soul is, children! You cannot see it: you cannot hear it: you cannot touch it. Yet you know it is there. You do not want any proof that you have a soul. You are as sure of that as that you have a body. It tells you itself.
Now I think I am wrong, after all, in saying that you have a soul. Ought I not to say, you are a soul? Is not the soul really yourself? In truth, my children, it is the soul that has a body, not the body that has a soul; for the soul is greater surely than the body, and will last when the body is laid aside in death.”
As always, leave me a comment to discuss any thoughts/questions!