The Already/Not Yet of the Soul At Peace With God

White Tree by Makoto Fujimura

(This is part six of a series of posts: onetwothreefour, five.)

I want a peaceful soul.

And in the already/not yet of the world I find myself in, this is no mean feat. When Jesus was facing a cross-faced dawn and confessed, “Now my soul is troubled” it was the cathartic echo of every soul on both sides of golgotha. I think he mumbled it.

The forces in this existence which scheme to construct a life without a peaceful soul are legion. And the spheres where the battle is fought are four. For I need a soul at peace with God, with others, with my own self and with the Universe.

With.

Already, I enjoy the peace that passes all understanding in a sense. The wrath of God has been turned back. The Prince of Peace, himself has turned it away and taken it on himself. It is a real peace. God is no longer angry with me. Peace. And despite the systematic theologies we have written and now fillour libraries, it is beyond understanding. I don’t get it.  All the horror for the sake of me and the beauty resulting. Is it Ok to be so blown away by not fathoming this peace we throw our hands up in confusion? Surely.

But I do not enjoy it fully. If I did I would not want a peaceful soul. It would be fully realized. This is part of the ‘not yet.’ Because I still have this frame which is so prone to sin, I still strive against the God who has already declared ‘peace’ by meeting all the demands himself.

Imagine that.

A soldier who once fought tooth and nail, war upon war, against the king is now an enemy no more. The King has met all his own demands of punishment for the insurrection. The soldier owes nothing. Peace is had. Real peace, not imagined peace that is defined by space, time and mass. This peace breaks those bonds completely. But the soldier forgets and strives against the King. In fits of rage he unsheathes his sword. In lust he grabs what is not his. And in impatience he demands.

But it’s peace he wants most. He wants to experience what is really his. He feels this peace he has with the king is a inheritance in foreign land he cannot yet get to. But he hears of its beauty and pastoral scenes. He gets word of the yield of fruit from the fields he will one day behold. Face to face.

The longing of his very soul.

The Disappearance of the Soul

I want a peaceful soul.

This may…probably sounds a little strange to you. If you thought it sounded strange the first and fifth time I said it, I would understand. It sounds strange to me. And I am the one saying it. The words swim in my brain and come out of my mouth regularly now. But they still sound strange to me.

On Monday I was in class with my ninth graders. I love them but they are not the recipe for a peaceful soul. I told them to stop talking while I am talking because when they talk while I am talking I get upset and I don’t want to be upset because being upset is the most well-trodden path to an unpeaceful soul and I do not want an un-peaceful soul but a peaceful soul. It sounded strange to them too.

And even though I wanted it deeply, it all sounded strange to me.

Maybe this is because I never talk about my soul. I have a soul but I never really talk about it. In fact I rarely talk about the soul at all. And the Christian community I am surrounded by doesn’t either. Well, that’s not entirely true.

We talk about saving souls a lot.

Souls are something needing to be saved. And once they are, they just…actually I don’t really know what they do. Or don’t do. Or need. Or even are.

Because I never hear about them. At all. Ever.

So I laid in bed last night wondering why this is the case. “Why is the concept and language of the soul not in the front of the Christian mind?” My mind immediately went through the Scriptures in my head and – now this is going to sound weird – I actually thought, “What I am talking about sounds old, KJV old.” And I was right.

This morning I got up early and did some comparing of Bible translations. The following is how many times the English word “soul” shows up in each of 14:

Douay-Rheims (1582 – 1610) – 660
KJV (1611) – 498
Darby (1890) – 536
ASV (1901) – 495
NAS (1960) – 289
NKJV (1975) – 341
NIV (1984) – 136
The Message (1993 -2002) – 163
21st Century KJV (1994) – 501
NLT (1996) – 73
ESV (2001) – 269
HCSB (2004) – 58
NIV (2005) – 96
NIV (2011) – 95

Three things I noticed right away:

1) The newer the translation the less ‘soul’ shows up.

2) The Catholic Bible uses it the most and the Southern Baptist uses it the least.

3) I didn’t even know there was a 21st Century KJV.

Maybe we don’t talk about the soul very much because our Bibles don’t talk about them very much anymore. Or maybe our Bibles don’t talk about them very much because we don’t talk about them very much. Maybe it’s a cycle which will eventually end in there being no talk of the soul.

I don’t assume this is a bad thing. Maybe it is nothing. Actually nothing is nothing.

Maybe it is no big deal. But that cannot be the case. Because we often talk about not losing our soul so as to gain the world. So the soul must be valuable. It must be something if we do not want to lose it. You don’t warn people to not lose something unless it has some value.

Am I right that evangelicals are not talking about the soul? And why aren’t they? Is this a blind-spot in the evangelical sub-culture?

My first guess? Churches are more and more becoming just like businesses. Businesses do not talk about souls. They talk about how many people walk through the door. They talk about investment and return. The bottom line. Pastors are managers. As soon as they have managed to see that the soul is saved from hell, the soul is left alone. And then people are organized into groups to do things and see things done. We advertise to gain market share. Souls are not even on the radar for businesses.

Heck, it wasn’t even on my radar till I heard Charlie Crews say, “I want a peaceful soul.” And I thought, “Yeah, me too.”

What do you think? Why do we never really talk about “the soul” except in relation to it’s need to be saved from hell?