When you marvel at the beauty of an autumn tree seemingly on fire with vivid oranges and yellows spread against the blue sky, there is no thought of the unseen dependency of roots below the surface. Yet this invisible beauty is a critical partner in the life of the tree.
Likewise there is more to humans than just our body. Our unseen being is also who we are. Our soul is the home of the mind. It is the place where we reason. It is where our will takes in myriads of input and makes decisions. It is where our inner life dwells.
This is where that rush of feeling pure awe as you witness an alpine lake mirroring a towering wall of granite reaching up to a deep a canopy of blue sky. Is that avid sense of humor, or a love for dramas, seeking to help people, and other qualities that can make who a person is. This is the place of the soul.
The sharp pangs of disappointment and concern live here too. It is where we hope for a new beginning. It is that profound place within us where our heart cries and melts with the loss of a person or an animal. The emotions of our soul are in action when we weep through tender scenes from a movie. It is where we wrestle with the ebbing texture of life. Indeed the soul is within the unseen you.
There is one more unseen dwelling place within each of us. This one is designed to hold a spirit. It called our “innermost place.” We are born with a human spirit that does not yet know God. It remains barren of God’s Holy Spirit until it is subsumed by God - the destiny for each of us, if we let it be.
Left as depleted, this is where that restless state that we have trouble describing lives. It is where we crave and thirst for something that will bring us peace from life forces that at times press our cheeks to the wall. Without God’s Spirit within us, we try to satisfy our unseen angst with consolations that seem right in our own limited minds. Indeed it can be an elusive and lonely quest, grasping for blue skies to push out the oncoming storm we know is out there somewhere.
Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and writer describes this helpless craving as something that man “tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there, the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
- Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)
This spiritually empty wasteland within each of us is meant to contain the Spirit of God. But God, not wanting to force himself gives us the choice to invite His Holy Spirit to dwell in our innermost place. Listen to what Jesus says about this:
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive. (John 7:38-39)
The source of thirst that Jesus is talking about here in this innermost place is vacant of God’s Spirit when we come into the world. The literal translation of what Jesus is describing is a hole, or empty place. Jesus is describing an abode meant to be saturated by God in the heart of each human.
Listen to how St. Augustine expresses this when he writes “How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.
— St Augustine, Confessions 10,20: PL 32,791.
Think again about this statement “my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.” Contemplate at this very moment - where does your soul draw life from?
Sometimes we unknowingly grasp for the answer to this question in the midst of challenges. Struggles that are the most difficult can nudge us to search deeper for what we are looking for. The dominating propensity to judge, the driving desire to have, and and the firm grip of compulsions haunt us to search deeper for what we are looking for. Sometimes it’s hard to keep moving on. Sometimes we feel like clouds of circumstance have been raining down on us too long. Often we don’t have a clue what to do and we just want someone to tell us what the answer is. As much as we would like to believe otherwise, our mind alone is not equipped to provide the answers that our heart seeks. When we reach deep into our soul and find ourselves still grasping at air, we can discover that who we draw from is the answer we have been holding out for.
When Jesus said by believing in Him “from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” Flowing “from” denotes there must be a headwater, a source. That source is God’s Spirit now residing within you where it was not there before. The choice to follow Jesus is the catalyst for His Spirit becoming your innermost being. Upon seizing this invitation, hope that the world does not know suddenly becomes yours. It is a promise of hope that never ends. It cannot be found anywhere else. Our seeking for refuge in the storms of life takes us into new waters that the soul and the world simply is not capable of providing. Listen to the hope that Jesus promises to those who take refuge in Him:
“…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” (Hebrews 6 :18-19)
Now our soul is no longer alone. It is no longer tethered to a void. It does not have to search the internet for clues on how to deal with what is in front of you. It has become wedded with the Hoy Spirit, and the unending, unfathomable wisdom of God is now at hand. Like driving through a dark, gray, jagged hewn tunnel, finally emerging to see a breathtaking view of a lush green valley framed in by towering mountains, the mind of God that was previously unreachable is now available to us.
This is what the apostle Paul is talking about as he shares how this life giving Spirit that we draw from is impossible within the human mind alone:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (1 Cor 2:9-10)
The good news is that humans can be filled with God’s Spirit by believing and inviting Him into ourselves. Our faith and hope are steeped in God alone. Living within us, God’s Spirit becomes the mentor of our mind.
Looking at it another way, without the Spirit within us, humans are actually not capable of understanding the depths of God. This can only be revealed in His spiritual realm. Instead of relying on our consciousness alone trying to make sense of life and making decisions based on the influences of the world within our human limits, the Holy Spirit reveals an understanding that is not possible just with our minds, will, and emotions in our soul.
Listen to how the apostle Paul articulates this:
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (1 Cor 2 11-13)
Only God can give us a special lens to see and know as He does. There are still things we don’t fully grasp outside of Heaven. Yet through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit within us, searching deep within our soul reaches into a rushing river of life and wisdom. Indeed, a sincere love for God leads us on journey with peace and power that the world does not yet understand.