Like old work boots, the soul is marked by the seasons of life.
A Reflection for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
How do you picture your soul? It matters, because we think by way of the images our minds draw. That is what concepts are: mental pictures.
In picturing your soul, something like Casper the Ghost might come to mind. A cartoon image, sketched in black and white. It contrasts with your body and the rest of the world, sketched and filled in with color.
For centuries, philosophers and theologians thought they were refining this image by thinking of the soul as something like a geometrical point, a spot of no extension where the spiritual and physical worlds touched.
How do you picture your soul?
Here is a better picture. Imagine a farmer’s work boots. Through how many seasons of sweat has he worn them? You can see flood and drought recorded on them. They smell of livestock. There is that spot on the toes, where the kids used to lift themselves into his lap.
Those work boots are a better image of the soul than a cartoon ghost or a geometrical point because they speak of the farmer’s world of concern and care. See the boots with some imaginative sympathy and you see him, his life in the world.
How we picture our souls matters. Uncolored cartoons and geometrical points do not change or weather. They do not grow in response to what happens in the world around them. But we do.
Our life in the Lord is about letting growth happen through all the seasons of sweat.
If you do not want to say that someone who is 24 has a larger soul than someone who is 12, then you must at least say that they have more humanity, a larger world of care and concern in which they dwell.
If you cannot see your soul as something that should never stop growing, even in the face of adversity, then you can make little sense of Ezekiel’s promise:
Thus says the Lord God:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar (17:22-23).
Jesus compared the kingdom of God—people, not principalities—to a mustard seed. What we need to know about that tiny kernel is this: It can—and will—grow if we let it. If we want it to. That seed is a perfect picture of our souls. Our life in the Lord is about letting growth happen through all the seasons of sweat.