You Are Not A Spirit
"Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
Over the last three years as I've wandered through the tumultuous valley of declining physical and mental health I've found myself constantly looking for a single answer solution to the whole thing. As I've mentioned in earlier posts that journey had actually begun almost ten years earlier but for the majority of that time I had unconsciously bought into an unspoken cultural spiritual narrative that I am just a spirit trapped in a physical body. I'd never considered physical or mental factors when it came to my mental health (I know, I know), but had continually sought only "spiritual" answers. Was I not applying enough faith somewhere? Had I taken a wrong turn in my calling or missed my one big God opportunity? Was I not really walking in God as I'd hoped? Or worse than all of that, was I simply just broken?
The answer lay in none of these questions but the sad truth that I'd totally misunderstood what the salvation I'd received really was in the first place.
You see, we are not spiritual beings trapped in physical bodies awaiting release from prison. That's an old Gnostic idea, not a New Testament or even Hebrew one. You and I are living souls.
A living soul is made up of mind, body and spirit. Totally integrated and inseparable, making us who we are today.
That's why there is a resurrection of the body in the end. That's why Jesus' body itself was resurrected. Jesus didn't just incarnate as a man temporarily just to prove a point and jump right back into spirit. Jesus is a man permanently. For eternity. Just like you and I. Right now, he is a physical human being wherever he is. We know he's not like he was because we read of him walking through walls and transporting himself after his resurrection. But we also know as John so poetically shares that though we don't quite know what it means yet, we will be like him when we see him again (1 John 3:2).
Still with me? Ok, let's go right back to the start.
In Genesis when we're lovingly crafted by our heavenly Father we read that we were first physical beings. Before we were anything else we were a lump of fashioned soil. Scientific discovery agrees, recently learning that we're made up largely of the same stuff as stars. In this moment though, as Genesis presents it, we were statues. Lifeless landscape images of eternal beauty, not yet reflecting the mind of God but at least a sign of his creativity.
Then something amazing happens.
God breaths His life into us.
Before you go imagining something that's not written here let's at least outline what is not said. God did not insert previously created spirits into the body. We are not eternal (as in we do not pre-date the existence of our bodies spiritually. We are created). God did not pluck a soul from the heavens to inject, he breathed his breath into man and man came alive. The essence of the human is all of them made alive and kept alive by the breath of God. Mind, body and spirit all illuminated by the warmth of eternal breath.
This may sound simple but it has some big ramifications for how we understand our wholeness.
1/ Our bodies matter
Our bodies matter because God made us that way. After Genesis 2 and our decision to walk in our own limited understanding rather than Gods, we've been on a steady meandering into sickness. Saying that we're made the way we are doesn't mean we don't suffer the effects of living opposed to the way were created. But if God made our bodies intentionally and is going to raise that same body up to glorify it, then how we treat our bodies and steward them is as important to God as anything else be it mental health, money, relationships or careers.
2/ We cannot separate the various aspects of ourselves
It's easy to read into the great commandment - love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, strength and mind as Jesus suggesting it's possible to love him with any one aspect alone. We can't. Instead of outlining separate parts of our being for obedience he's extrapolating out the different ways our one person can love him. The old testament word for soul is "Nephesh" and is best translated as neck or throat. It's sometimes translated as soul, sometimes throat, sometimes body, sometimes mind. The point being, all those aspects of ourselves represent our living being but none can be singled out from the other. The beatitudes and the teaching of Jesus cannot be separated into spiritual or physical alone. Every spiritual practice has a physical overflow toward God and other and every physical act of love has an individual spiritual benefit. That's what James meant when he said "Faith without deeds is dead". It's simply impossible to separate the two. And so it is with our being.
3/ There is often no one solution to our spiritual / emotional / physical trials
For some trials there are no resolutions in this life. It's the painful reality of the effects of our being in this stage of the cosmic drama while we await the full perfection and freedom of our bodies. But for things like depression, immune diseases, anxiety, sleeplessness and tiredness there is often a three part solution. For some people that's obvious, but if you're where I was ten years ago you'll be thinking to yourself "that's crazy, we just need prayer." The truth is we do need prayer and if possible prophetic prayer by sensitive people who know how to listen in the moment. But we may also need a healthy nutritional plan, some counseling and possibly even the right vitamins to help launch us into wholeness.
We can't simply pray in our room and expect see the kingdom of heaven in totality, but must love our enemies, our neighbors and the oppressed in practicality. We also can't just pray and hope that our depression, anxieties, fears or tiredness will be taken from us either. Of course, that can happen too because God is alive. But in both circumstances I believe it's fair to say that faith without deeds is dead.
If you drink too much or each fast food every night you're going to wake up with brain fog, a lack of nutrients and a cracky disposition. You'll also have to push all the more harder to experience the joy, love and passion of the Spirit living with in you. It's not rocket science. But in a generation saturated in easily accessible pleasures we may need to be reminded of the simple truth.
So, don't be thinking that you're just a spirit in a physical body. Jesus' teachings constantly centered on how important it is that you take what you do with your body seriously. Recognize that prayer alone is not God's only way to develop you. He's given you the Spirit of self-control and wisdom also.
You are not a spirit, you're a human.
That's how God made you, and that's how one day he will raise and heal you.