Today Eugene has me thinking about how easily we reduce one another into something less-than human. In the Hebrew language, the word for soul, nephesh, is a metaphor for the word neck. The neck is a connector, bringing breath from the mouth to the lungs and back again, connecting the head to the body, nerves to the brain, ideas to actions. To remove our neck would be to disconnect us - a head is no good without a body. Soul is a connecting word, implying relationship and connectedness with God, with others. To be a soulish being reminds us that our spirit is not unimportant to our body, and that God is necessary for conversation and vocation, for friendship and service. When we remove the soul from our view of ourselves and others, we are reduced to being consumers, people who are a resource to be used or people who are using others.
Peterson writes, "In our current culture, "soul" has given way to "self" as the term of choice to designate who and what we are. Self is the soul minus God. Self is what is left of soul with all the transcendence and intimacy squeezed out.... Widespread consumerism results in extensive depersonalization. And when depersonalization occurs, life leaks out."
As I thought about what this means for life and ministry, I realized how quickly I disconnect people. I can see the poor as a problem to be solved or a mouth to feed. I can be seen by the poor as a solution to their problem, a resource. InterVarsity students and staff can see new students coming to their groups as a resource to replenish leadership structures or to boost numbers.
And so, when everything in our culture has trained us to consume or be consumed, how do we go about our life and work remembering that people are more than what we see, more than their needs, more than what they can give us? The answer is Jesus and living by the Spirit. Jesus refused to see people as problems to be solved or a means to His own ends. His end was to glorify the Father, and He knew that the Father received glory when children came home, when men and women walked in right relationship to God and one another. Sometimes a meal of bread and fish was a way to move people towards the Father. Sometimes it was a hard word of truth. Sometimes it was ignoring the needs of many and attending to silence and prayer. People were not to be consumed, but to be restored to connectedness, head to heart, physical and spiritual hunger satisfied. Life infused rather than life leaked out.
I don't want life to leak out from me. Jesus has created us for life, life and more life, connected to God, connected to others. Spirit and body connected. Soulful living.