Before school, on cold mornings, my dad and I would sit on the kitchen floor, next to the vent, and eat peanut butter and jelly toast. Mom had to be at work early, so dad got us ready for school. He loved sitting near the floor vent to stay warm. I don’t remember what we would talk about, I just know this was our thing and I loved it. Dad and I had a few things that were special to me. Most Sunday afternoons he would put blankets on the family room floor with pillows and ask me to take a nap with him. He also loved having his back scratched and his feet rubbed. These are sweet memories of my childhood that I’ll hold close. As I grew up, we grew apart, I guess like most teenagers do with their parents. I moved away to college then got married. However, things changed when he got sick. We have always had a special relationship, but I believe we grew closer in his final days.
At the end, we sat in hospital rooms a lot. We didn’t have peanut butter and jelly toast, mostly jello and bland hospital food. We didn’t eat together in the end, but I was able to feed him. We didn’t get to nap on the family room floor but I was able to rest with him and watch him sleep in his hospital bed. I was still able to rub his back and his feet, only his limbs looked older and tired. I’ll never forget one moment with him at the hospital. We were alone before he went into a procedure for his failing liver. We prayed, we hugged and I rubbed his feet. A precious moment with one of my heroes.
Dad is one of my heroes because of how he handled what he had been given. I don’t know who gave it to him, God, the fall of man, or just life. I can’t answer that, but he handled it so well. He endured suffering beautifully to me. What I saw when we were together inspired me. He endured more suffering than any other human I know. Those details are too hard to share or even remember. But through it all, I saw him glorify God. Every time he was in the hospital, he would make friends and share Christ. I told him to stop or God would just keep him sick to spread the gospel. He had a ministry of suffering, at least, that’s what I began to call it. His legacy was made known at his funeral, when doctors and nurses were present. Friends had flown in and the chapel couldn’t hold all the guests.
I have recently processed some of my grief over his great struggle and sickness. Wondering why his pain had to be so excruciating and what I thought was a shameful end. A friend asked me, “What did you see in his soul during all the pain?” Well, I couldn’t answer right away because I had missed his soul, because I only saw his physical pain. After thinking on this, I know that I saw his soul transform and grow closer to God. Our relationship became more tender, he became more sensitive, his faith seemed deeper. These days, I am choosing to focus on the beauty of his soul, instead of the sadness of his decaying body.
I am realizing this is a valuable lesson, to focus on souls instead of bodies. How hard is this, when someone walks into the room, to look past their body and see into their soul? God is so good at this. It takes eyes like God to do this, to have soul eyes. Ephesians 1:8 encourages me, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know.”
Somehow our world has this backwards. Our bodies have become idols, while our souls are starving. Starving for God, for His spirit, for rest. It’s really a tragedy to only feed our body and not our soul.
I’ve been focused on bodies too long, ignoring the health of my soul and missing the souls around me. That was the problem with dad, I was so focused on his body and the pain he was in, so I missed the transformation happening in his soul. It seems there is a lot in the Bible about pursuing soul health before body health. Our bodies are guaranteed to decay and fail us, but God guarantees the health and healing of our souls. Psalms discusses souls quite a bit:
Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul.
Psalm 63: 1 O God, you are my God, my soul thirsts for you.
Psalm 62:1 For God alone, my soul waits in silence, from him comes my salvation
Psalm 42:11 Why are you casts down, O my soul, Hope in God.
David, who wrote many of the Psalms, seems to be onto something here. David was a tortured soul. He endured much hardship: he was an outcast, he was alone, he was a shepherd, he was a king, he was a murderer, he had an affair, he was anxious and depressed, but most importantly he was a lover of God. He was madly in love with his God. I believe that is why he writes so much about the soul. He knew only God could meet his needs and restore his soul.
Paul understood this too. He was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, and alone. In prison for preaching the gospel, he asked for prayers to preach more boldly. His body only served as a house for him to glorify God through. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
That’s it, that’s the secret that Paul and David and maybe my dad knew. They had come to a place of seeing their failing bodies as just a house for God’s glory, not an idol to be worshipped or adorned. I am so guilty of this, I’ve been confused, tricked even. Instead of seeing the treasure inside, housed by a jar of clay, I have chosen to preserve and adorn and elevate my body above the eternal gift I have. That’s the lie I have chosen, the apple I’ve bitten into, to choose the value of my body over the value of my soul. And I have done it with others too, placing their outsides in higher esteem than their insides, the insides that house the potential for glory. That’s a sad and screwed up trade, the flesh over the Spirit. God have mercy.
How did this happen? The enemy is very cunning and has provided all the resources in the world to distract us. Let’s refocus and see what God has to say:
1 Corinthians 15:22, 53 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. For our dying bodies must be transformed into something that will never die.”
1 Timothy 4:8 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Ask God to give you soul eyes, to see past the physical and into the eternal. Is your soul starving, weary or tired?
Psalm 116:7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.