April 19, 2009

Love the Lord your God with all your Soul

According to one definition, soul is the “immaterial part of a person”—the thoughts and personality. We talk about ‘soul mates’ and ‘soul music’ as that which speaks to the deepest parts of our identity.

Our society and culture says that your personality is determined by your environment and that you can (and should) improve yourself in any number of ways. You can “never be thin enough or rich enough”, as the Bessie Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, once said. Talk shows, magazines, book shelves, and videos offer diets, exercise, beauty, and other self improvement ideas. We are told we need to be thin, beautiful, smart, rich, and perfect in order to have good self-esteem—a good soul. This makes us search and search for just the right combination of money, looks, and success so that we can 'be the best you can be.'

Our Loving Father says something entirely different, however. “I have carved you in the palm of my hand” and “your times are in my hand” are just two of innumberable citations that assure us of our worth in the eyes and heart of God. We do not have to be the perfect size or brilliant successes to be important to God. Our soul is much more than a dress size or hair color. Even intelligence or wealth are not really part of our soul. The soul is our deepest identity and that is “hidden with God in Christ.”
God says, “I have called you by name and you are mine.” The name our parents gave each of us is important to who we see ourself as. There are various resources where you can learn the meaning of your name. That can be interesting, but it is the name that only God knows, which truly determines who we are. In Revelation, we are told God “will give you a new name.” When God calls us by our real name, we respond with our soul’s deepest longing—relationship with God’s love.
God loves us unconditionally because our soul is created in God’s image and that is enough. Since we are so important to the Living God we can respond to the cultural insistence on self-improvement by saying, truthfully, “My Father says I am perfect just the way I am.”
Several times in the Gospels we hear the Father say that Jesus is “my beloved son.” We, too, are beloved sons and daughters of the One who has from the beginning of creation said you “are very good.”
Is that enough for you?
Throughout the Bible we find men and women who struggle with this same question. Jacob’s wife, Leah doesn’t think she is loved and is so sure that her only importance is in her child bearing. “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb…she called his name Reuben; for she said, ‘Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.’” (Gen. 29:31-32)
In my book, Beloved Leah, she finally realizes that she is loved. She says, “For too long, I raged against Rachel and against Jacob for not loving me. I wanted them to love me for being beautiful. Too late I have learned and understand that they loved me for who I am.”
This week think about the truth that God ‘calls you by name’ and loves you so much you are engraved ‘in the palm of [His] hand’. What difference does that make to how you see yourself?
God loves you and me for who we are today. Let your soul respond to that Love and rejoice.

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