August 7, 2022

Turtle soul

Passage: Genesis 2:7, 1 Corinthians 3:10-16, Matthew 7

I have been watching a television series on Amazon Prime called Bosch starring Titus Welliver as Los Angeles Police detective Harry Bosch, whom his mother named after a 15th century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. 


Harry is a former Army Special Forces. He is a good detective who clears a lot of murders. However, he is a bit of a renegade and sometimes pushes the boundaries of the rules. Like many American movie and tv male stars, he is no stranger to violence, is taciturn and doesn’t talk about feelings. He is a macho in the sense of being manly, self-reliant, the one who is to defend and protect family, and who resorts to violence when needed. 


And I don’t say this to say that Harry’s manliness is all good, but to quote something from the show that is a weakness. 

His daughter Maddie says to her dad one time:  

You're like a turtle. Your shell's where you're safe, but nobody gets under there with you. Not really. Not even me. 


Today I am talking about soul or spirit.  

The interesting thing about Harry Bosch is that he is a turtle soul. Nobody gets into Harry’s soul, sometimes not even Harry himself. And he is very good at not showing what he really feels and thinks inside. Everything is always good and fine. He does this, probably to protect his daughter and others. But at what cost. 


then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul. 


  Theologians, scholars, scientists and others have debated for centuries on what is a human soul. 

I have heard arguments that we are a body, and a soul and a spirit. That spirit and soul are different. For me I will use soul and spirit interchangeably. 

We know about the body. It is the physical component. But the soul or spirit is a little harder to wrap one’s mind around. 

I not sure I can define it. I more accept that it is. Just as lots of people have different understandings of the word love, but hardly anybody would debate that there isn’t love, so I want to say that it is a fairly well accepted idea that humans have a soul or a spirit, and two of leading proponents of this idea 100 years ago or so, were two men by the names of Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung. 


So, when I am talking about the soul or spirit, I am talking about the entirety of one’s inner life, one’s mind or the term Jung uses, one’s psyche. One’s psyche is the totality of one’s mind, conscious and unconscious. 


My argument in part today is that Jesus was very interested in the human psyche or soul. 

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 


And many of Jesus’ teachings were about care for the soul. And that indeed what the church’s caring and nurturing function is about, …it is about caring for souls. 


But one of the problems we have in talking about soul or spirit is that much of Christian interpretation of soul or spirit adopted a Greek understanding of spirit. 

That Greek understanding was that the body and the spirit were separate identities and the body wasn’t really that important, and the whole goal was to escape the body and the immortal spirit be free. 

That Greek understanding, I believe, led to an inordinate focus on afterlife, on literal heaven and hell, and that the whole goal of life was to make it to heaven and not to hell. Which by the way became a huge part of the church’s teaching, because it kept the Church’s leaders very powerful as the ones in charge of who made it and who didn’t. 


But that was not the primary message of Jesus. Jesus was steeped in Hebrew tradition which kept body and soul together. Our Christian teaching is called the resurrection of the body, not the resurrection of the soul or spirit. 

And for Jesus, what was interesting is that he believed that resurrection, or eternal life, or being born again, was not something that necessarily happened after one died physically. 

Jesus taught that we could die to an old way of life, and be born again to a new way of life. 

He believed that the body and soul could be in a sense resurrected, or transformed, or born again, here and now, and then God’s love could come on earth as it in heaven. 

It is not that Jesus didn’t believe in an afterlife, but that his focus was on your soul here and now. 


So instead of turtling your soul here and now like Harry Bosch, Jesus wants to heal your soul, transform your soul, let your soul be born again, let your soul grow, let your soul learn. 

Jesus wants you to examine your soul, share your soul, talk about your soul, so that you put away pretenses, and lies, and coverups, and mind protections and deceptions, and false thinking and be open to truth, to love, to health, to connection, to sharing, and to doing good from a space of wholeness and from your true self. 



Let me use an analogy for the soul, or the spirit, or the mind, or one’s psyche. 

It is like a house.  


There are various people who have used that analogy. It is found in scripture too. 

The foolish one builds a house on the sand and the rain comes and washes away the sand the house falls. 

The wise one builds a house on rock. 


Then there is the image of Jesus as being your foundation, and then building your house or life on that foundation. And like the story of the three little pigs, how you build your house or life, or soul, makes a difference. You can use cheap substandard materials, or you can build with the best materials, which will stand you in good stead if evil tries to blow your house down, or destroy your soul. 


So let us think of your soul as a house.  


There is the living room part of your soul. That is the most public part of your soul, where you let the most people in. It is usually a guarded part of your soul. It is the part you present to the public. When you see Harry in the pulpit that is the presentable Harry. When you see Harry on the golf course, that is not so presentable. 


And just like every house is different, so every person and every soul is different. Some people are more open in the living room part of the soul. Some people like Harry Bosch hardly let anybody in to any part of their soul. 


Then there is the rec room part of the soul. That is the part of your soul where you go to play with your buddies. It is much more yourself, much freer, but at times not very thoughtful or discerning. When you are yourself with your buddies in play time, sometime your prejudices and bad habits leak out, because you are not so careful in the rec room. 


Then there is the kitchen part of the soul. This is kind of like your family area. The ones you let into the kitchen part of your soul are the ones you really trust. The ones you want to break spiritual bread with, or emotional bread with. This is your meat and potatoes area, where you are very open with what you think and feel. It is where you have really good discussions. 


Then there is the bedroom area of your soul, the place where you drag up hurts and tell stories that you don’t tell others. This is where you bring up the stuff you only tell the most trusted people. 


Then there is the bathroom area of the soul, where you dump the crap from your soul, where you try and flush away everything you don’t like. It is where you go by yourself and don’t let anybody see what is in there, …what guilt, shame, dirty secrets etc. 


For some, or most, possibly all, there is a sacred space in the house. For the religious, it is where they deal with religious thoughts and ideas, religious practices and beliefs. For all people it is their space to think of… identity, and meaning, and purpose, and what they most value and treasure. 


And of course, there is a basement. Down in the basement is all kinds of memories and all kinds of stories, and all kinds of stuff. Half the time you don’t hardly even know what is down there in the basement. It where you consciously and unconsciously put memories and events and thoughts and things that you don’t think are important, and you might not need, or you rarely need. 


And according to Carl Jung and many other thinkers and psychologists, you have a sub-basement. That sub-basement is ten levels deep. It is your unconscious. And guesstimates are that 90 percent of your mind is unconscious. You don’t even know what is in your sub-basement. But every once in a while, something will come out of that sub-basement into your consciousness, sometimes things painful or difficult. 

The subconscious is actually very busy. It keeps you breathing, walking, heart beating, and so on. It does all the things we do without thinking about them. 

It also sorts information, what to keep hidden, what to bring to the surface. 

It fires up when threatened, or anxious and makes you feel emotions about which you might have little or no control. 

It wants to revert you to tried and true patterns of behavior, even if that behavior didn’t work. 


That is your soul in a nutshell. It is like a house. 


And so, one exercise, is to simply go through every room of your house and think deeply about who has access to that room of your soul, and what things you talk about in that room. 

And then pray about it. Talk to God about each room. 

You might what to take a different day for each room, or even a different week. 

Later on, you might want to think about planning. In other words, you visit each room of the house, and think about how you might want to change things. Maybe you want different people in different rooms of your house. Maybe you want to lighten up in different rooms, or be more serious. Maybe you want to add topics to think about. Maybe you want to spend less time in some rooms and more time in others. 

And again, these are all things you can pray about. 


These are also things you could find a trusted friend to talk about, or even a professional. Or a church group might meet and do soul work together. 


When we look through these room one thing that we might see more clearly is who we are. We might be seeing our identity. We might be looking at how we act in certain situations and what we think and feel in different parts of our soul. 

We may like what we see or we may want to change our behavior, or our thoughts or our beliefs. 

We sometimes call that confession. 

Where is God, in our house. Where is the Spirit active. Do we let Jesus in to every part of our soul? 


Jesus suggests that if we want a good foundation for our soul, that we use his words, his teachings, his life, his example, his grace, his forgiveness, his love… 


Everyone to a greater of lesser extent has a narrative or story about their life. They weave together personal experiences, or personal stories, with their thoughts, their education, their interactions with others, their history, their family, their faith, their pain, their joys, into one bigger narrative. What religion does is give one a prism through which to interpret that narrative. 

For us Christians, and at least for me, I see my story and tell my story through the story of Jesus Christ, who taught non-violence, who taught us to love one another, who taught us to love our neighbour, who taught that God is love, who taught us to love our enemies, who taught us that love is the way to be, who taught us to die to selfishness and be born again to love. 


And so, yet another way to work on the soul for a Christian, is to work on your story, to think about your story, to tell your story, and to integrate your story with Christ’s story. 


Souls do not grow in isolation. In fact, they are very much influenced by your family of origin and your peers. What others tell you, what others teach you, what others do to you, what others hurt you, what others help you, what others think of you… are all part of making you, you. 


And part of the job of the mature adult is to think through all that. Does it matter what others think, and why does it matter. Which people does it matter? 

Who has hurt you? Who has helped you? Who is your safe place? What lies have you been taught or modeled? How do you want to be different than those who raised you? 


Another exercise is to think of those who most influenced you soul, good or bad and to reflect on it, to pray about it, to heal from it, or to incorporate it. 


I know that it matters to me what my children, my spouse, my friends think of me. I want them to be proud of me.  

There is a good and bad side to that. Negatively, I have to be careful that doesn’t derail me from being me and being my true self. My job isn’t to please them, but to be the best me. Positively, it can encourage us to be our best selves, because what makes a person who loves you proud of you, is when you are your best self. 


But again, another exercise of the soul, is to think about what others think, and who matters to you when it comes to their opinion, and are you being your best self, or are you pleasing others. 


Jesus had some very good words to in chapter 7 of Matthew’s gospel about soul work. 

Don’t judge others. Work on your own soul. You don’t even know 90 percent of it, so imagine how little you know about somebody else’s soul. So, judging someone else usually does the other no good, and usually blinds you to what needs to change in your own soul. 


Soul work is about asking, seeking and knocking on doors of your own self. 

Ask yourself questions. Seek to understand yourself. Knock on the doors of your basement, your bathroom, your sub-basement for as Jesus says “everything that is hidden will be brought to light” 

Soul work is often about bringing to the light that which is dark, that which is hidden. 


Jesus says that the purpose of soul work is so that you will start doing unto others what you would have them do to you. 


Soul work is not easy. Many take the easy road of not doing soul work, and destructive tendencies are not addressed. But Jesus suggests taking the narrow gate and hard road of soul work and it leads to a better life. 


You can tell who does soul work by their fruit. Do they love? Do they care? Do they listen? Do they share? Are they gentle and not easily offended? Do they give to others or to the needy? 

And you can tell if you are doing soul work by your own fruit? 

Lots of people claim to be Christian and yet seemingly have not let Jesus into their souls. Doing the will of Jesus seems to be the criteria. 


So let us build our souls on the solid rock of Jesus. And it is not just about believing. It is doing the soul work and changing what we think and believe; but so that we will also act. 

For what we our transforming, what we resurrecting is both body and soul. 

I suppose at times everyone one of us is tempted to be a turtle soul. To climb back into our shell and be safe, and not let anyone in to see our emotional mess or our wounded souls. But Jesus invites us to let our true selves shine. 


But in order to let our light shine, we shine it first on the inside, on our souls, and let Jesus in, and share our souls with him, he who has the power to save our souls and transform us from the realm of darkness, to the dominion of love and light.