That Soul Spirit Understanding
In this short and concise chapter from Yes, I Am, Norman delineates between soul and spirit: between “the surges of the waves (soul emotions) and the unmoved calm center (spirit).” Such an understanding frees us from false condemnation over our thoughts and feelings and gives us the “green light” to live fully as Christ in our forms.
A special key is given us for our daily stabilizing by the writer to the Hebrews. He declares that this life has rest, not strain as its basis (4:1–11). It is the rest God has had since He rested on the seventh day after completing the creation. It is also that of Israel entering into the land of Canaan. But he goes on to say that the true rest is what we have in Christ, our Joshua. That rest is by no means a folding of the hands, but a fully active life that is a thrill to live because it has adequacy at its center, not inadequacy. Living life without what it takes to live it causes strain; living life with what it takes to live it produces rest. The resting life he describes this way: “He that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His” (4:10). Living by my own works was when I was the worker. The rest-life will have even more works, for He is the worker. But that type of working is resting. The key to entering into God’s rest and continuing in it is by a revelation nowhere else so clearly stated in the Bible. It is in knowing the difference between soul and spirit (4:12).
The Key–Discerning Soul and Spirit
We already have seen that the human spirit is the basic self. Soul and body are the means by which we express ourself and live a fully active life. So as long as we confuse what we are in our inner spirit-self with the ways in which we express ourself by our outer soul and body, we are in trouble.
The writer to the Hebrews likens the difference between soul and spirit to the joints and marrow in our physical bodies. The marrow is what contains the inner life of the bones—a picture of spirit. The joints are the way by which that inner life goes into action in hands and feet, etc. analogous to soul. And he says we have spirit and soul so mixed up that it takes a revelation for us to see the difference. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” (4:12.)
In simple terms, in our spirits we love. By our soul emotions and body action we express our love. In the spirit we know. By the soul we express our knowledge by our reasoning faculty. (Peter shows the relationship between those two when he says we should be ready to give “a reason for the hope that is in us.”) So soul and body are the precious and only means by which we—our spirit, and God’s Spirit by us—can express ourselves.
The quality of Spirit–spirit union is stillness, for the universal is always still. “Be still and know that I am God.” God spoke to Elijah in a “still, small voice.” Spirit can be compared to the sea, which, with its mighty currents and streams, is a “still” source of power; the soul is like the rampaging waves which dash about as the expression of that power. The power is in the sea, and not in the waves.
So our danger and problem—till we are awakened to it—is in mistaking the surges of the waves (soul emotions) for the unmoved and calm center (spirit). We get into trouble when we mistake the variable emotions of the soul for our still spirit-center. The waves are feelings such as anger, hurts, jealousies, fears, lusts; or alternatively, soul feelings of depression, deadness, uselessness, meaninglessness, coldness, emptiness, inability to believe—an endless list. The same is true of our soul in its reasoning activities: All kinds of disturbing or evil thoughts can pour into us, with all the doubts and questionings they bring, and influence our mental attitudes. Notice that this verse of scripture also compares soul and spirit to “the thoughts and intents of the heart”: intents, our spirit—fixed purpose; thoughts, our soul—varied opinions about the intents.
That is also why John in his First Epistle (3:19–21) makes a differentiation between our hearts and God. He says, “if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” “Heart,” representing feelings, is soul—and we can get plenty of condemnation in our feelings. But God, who knows all and doesn’t condemn, speaks His assuring word into our spirits.
Even so, it is easy, outwardly, to be strongly drawn by some desire of the heart and seem to be helpless against it. But in my spirit-center, where God is, I know my real desire is His will, and He keeps His firm hold on me. A friend recently wrote regarding a strong desire for a certain thing: “…but in this I felt myself kept. This keeping made me angry at times, because I wanted to have my own way and I knew I could not. I knew it could never be because that wasn’t what the real me wanted.” Outward and inward desire: the workings of soul and spirit.
Our Spirit Union
A person inquires of me, “What do I do when I say I am ‘Christ as me’ and yet there is someone I hate?” I laugh and reply, “You are kidding yourself. You don’t hate; you can’t hate. You can only feel you do on your soul/emotional level and mistake that for hate. Hate is only love reversed—and you are love, which is He in you, and you love by the set purpose of the will; and you know that if the real need arose you would give yourself for the one you ‘hate.’ While soul love is emotion, spirit love is will—and we are fixed in that kind of love. So we may feel more like hell and yet be in heaven.
So we see ourselves in our spirit–center, where we and He are one in spirit, and all things are ours in Him. Soul and body are our wonderful means of endless spirit expression. And having grasped, by the revelation of the Word, the distinction between soul and spirit, I do not fear my soul and body…and still less do I foolishly wish I were without their disturbing reactions. No, I thankfully see myself as a whole person, God’s whole person. He has equipped me with these fascinating means for living out my full life as a whole self with Himself, in all my life’s activities. Because they are wholly His, I will put no limits on the liberated use of my soul and body. At the same time, I totally enjoy the fact that He has me safely in hand, even with the surges of the negatives temporarily flooding in. Spirit wins its battles over soul and body diversions, being “kept by the power of God”; and we, “having all sufficiency in all things, abound unto every good work.”