"You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." C.S. Lewis
This weekend was a ship holiday and all non-shift workers had Friday off. Some friends and I spent Friday-Saturday at a local pool. On Friday night we played "fax machine," a game from home I've been happy to introduce to my international friends.
At the start of the game, everyone gets a stack of blank papers, according to the number of people playing (for example, six of us played so we each had six papers). Everyone writes a phrase on the top piece of paper and passes it to the person next to them. They read the phrase, put it at the bottom of the pile, and then try to illustrate it. The next person looks at the illustration and writes the phrase they think it is describing. It's sort of like whisper down the lane with paper an pens. It's hysterical to watch the phrases morph and change with each illustration.
The first phrase I was handed was "Life is like a box of chocolates." I used a stick figure to illustrate "life". The stick figure was born, became a child, got married, had a family, and then died. It proved to be a sufficient illustration when the person next to me wrote the correct phrase. At the end of the round, when I looked through all the drawings, I found, without seeing each other's drawings, everyone used the same concept for describing "life". We all drew a person under going a prescribed series of events experienced by most of humanity.
Sitting by the pool on Saturday, I was struck by the significance of our identical illustrations. We had all described "life" as a concept with a concrete beginning point, birth, and ending point, death. "Life" was the in-between, events encapsulated within these two points.
I wondered how we would have illustrated "soul". As I looked over the events and timetable of life, I concluded that bring my soul withing the jurisdiction of these points, however, it is completely separate from them. The soulish part of me is in not defined by events. Yes, I was born, but I would never describe my soul by my birth. Perhaps I will get married one day, but I would not describe my soul by my marriage. Neither of those things define my existence. They may affect my soul, but they will never frame or define it.
Life is a captive of time. It remains between two clearly set points which all of mankind comes under subjection. Our souls exist outside of the framework of time. They are eternal. When our life is gone, our souls will carry on. A truth which carries poignant implications.
I hit my halfway point last week. I've been here three months and will be leaving in three more. I have no plans and no tangible expectation of what God has next for me. I feel called to continue in missions, but am uncertain of where, with who, when, and in what capacity. I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all last week.
Currently, I am reading through Genesis and am currently exploring the life of Abraham. In chapter 12 God calls Abram saying, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee," and Abram leaves everything behind and goes.
24 years and five chapters later, in Genesis 17:5-8, God again speaks to Abram.
"Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
He'd spend the next 75 years of his life, living an unsettled life in tents throughout the dessert, believing that promise. His life on earth never included seeing his descendants become many nations or possessing the land of Canaan. But God kept His promise. We can still see that today.
The journey, the promise, the calling, wasn't really about reaching a physical destination. The journey was becoming Abraham. Abram could have held onto his life and stayed in Ur, where he was settled, cultured, and wealthy. He could have fulfilled all the points between life an death my friends and that could have been it. There was a clear choice. He could not have both. He choose to reach towards eternity, and forsook that which is bound for that which is boundless.
I find this all strangely comforting. My God has not only searched out the great oceans of eternity, but He mysteriously contains them within Himself (John 1:1). I'm swimming in a paper cup of life. I see it for what it is when I hold the cup next to the ocean. It's small, short, and incomparable. Likewise are our lives when held next to eternity. If God contains the eternal sea, surely my paper cup of water is not outside of His watch and guidance. Regardless of what life does or does not hold, whether it be joy or sorrow, one day my soul will be freed and I will swim in those eternal seas.
I think He cares most that my souls makes that journey. It's the journey I want to pursue. My heart echos the words of the the martyred missionary, Jim Elliot, "He is no fool to lose what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
May that be true of us. Let us not be content to only think of our lives. May we be those concerned with eternity, accounting for first our own souls and then standing in the gap for those around us.