First: before I left I looked at Reese, smiled, and said, “Bye! I love you.”
In response, she looked at me, smiled, and said, “Buh-eye! I ove uuuh.” Her words were clear enough that one of the other parents recognized and commented on them.
However, just before that breath-taking, wonderful moment Reese did something else.
She punched a boy. She hit him with a closed fist. She hit him in the chest, but it just as easily could have been the face. It probably would have been the face if Reese had not been so much shorter than her victim. As far as I could tell, all the boy had done was enter her personal space a little too much for Reese’s taste.
In less than two minutes two potentially life-shaping directions presented themselves. Loving expression. Violent action. In which direction will Reese move as she ages? In which direction will any of us move?
I know that moving in either direction is not always a clear, smooth, straight journey. It is But in our heart of hearts I think we can sense which direction we are moving – or sliding, as the case may be.
One of the most helpful definitions for “soul” that I have come across actually appeared not in a theology textbook, but in a book about relationships entitled Soul-Healing Love. The authors defined “soul” as the core energy that powers our lives, the thinking and feeling essence that animates our bodies. They saw “the soul” in this sense as the inner pool of our emotions, will, appetites, and memories. They called this pool our fundamental vitality, our soul.
A fundamental question for us at 18 months or 81 years is whether we are moving toward having a soul suited best for punching people or for telling them “I love you!” Another way of saying it: What is filling that “soul pool” within us that gives us our energy for living – more love or more violence?
Think about the thoughts you fan into flame or the entertainments you focus upon or the words that trip most easily off your tongue. Are they moving you toward greater love or toward greater violence? I remember C.S. Lewis putting this issue well. Lewis noted that with each decision we make we shape ourselves into a creature more fit for Heaven or into a creature more fit for Hell.
There are many things, for better or worse, we do not feel we have much control of in the world. The New Testament calls these things the “powers and principalities.” We may know them by other names such as The Market, The Pentagon, The Corporation, The Church, The Grave, etc., etc.
But this is one thing over which we do have a fair amount of control. In which direction do we move our souls?
I think this is one of the main ways I read Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapters 5-7. In it Jesus explores what it looks like to live in the direction of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a difficult road, but a trip worth taking. And it is a journey Jesus does not ask us to take alone. He is willing to walk with us every of the way.
And, when it comes down to it, we will all take a journey somewhere by the steps of the daily decisions of our lives. Are we travelling toward more anger and bitterness? Or less? More fear and hatred of strangers and enemies? Or less? More confidence in God’s love breaking into our world through us? Or less?
Jesus said to people again and again as he journeyed around the Sea of Galilee, “Come, and follow me.” He is still saying it.