Last week I ended my blog with this quote from St. Paul, from I Thessalonians 5:23. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
St. Paul mentions spirit, soul, and body as though those three elements are what we are made of, made of. (Read last week’s blog on the child’s poem “What are Little Girls Made Of?” to understand why I repeated here the phrase “made of.”) And he lists all three as though each were something different from the other, (Instead of spirit and soul somehow being the same, as in the lore of some folk). According to this Scripture, and what I describe below, they are each distinguished from each other, and they each have distinct purposes.
When I think of my own “system,” if you will, as being made up of these three parts, spirit, soul, and body, I’m in awe. You and I are tri-partite – each of us a “trinity,” a three-in-one kind of a being.
That Scripture, and the one from I Corinthians 6:19 taken together, create awe upon awe for me. Here St. Paul says, “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own.” (Contemporary English Version)
We are not only tri-partite beings made in the image of God. We are a temple that houses the Holy Spirit!
Watchman Nee, a 20th Century Chinese Christian who was persecuted for his faith and finally martyred, developed this “temple metaphor” in a profound way: Just as the Jewish Temple had an Outer Court, a Holy Place, and a Holy of Holies (another example of a “three-in-one” entity,) so we humans have a corresponding element to each of those in the Jewish Temple.
Let me explain: The Jewish Outer Court was a place where anyone could enter – Jews, Gentiles, free people, slaves, men and women. It was a very physical place, with people jostling other people – and animals. Nee tells us that in this metaphor of our being a temple, our body is the Outer Court. In our body, we can have relationships, we can share fellowship, we can do things in a community, and sometimes choose solitude. We have physical needs that can make us ill if not met. Our Outer Court is so very important to nurture, respect, and actually reverence – since it is part of the Temple.
The Jewish Holy Place was a space further into the Temple. Only the Jewish priests could enter the Holy Place. The Holy Place was less accessible to the people. It’s where the sacrifices were conducted on the altar. Mr. Nee tells us that our Holy Place is our soul – specifically our intellect, our emotions, and the place from which we make decisions (our will) dwell there. These areas of our being are less accessible to other people. No one can “enter” my soul, my “Holy Place.” And I cannot enter yours.
The Jewish Holy of Holies lay deepest into the Temple. Only the High Priest could enter that room, and he could enter it only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Mr. Nee tells us that our Holy of Holies is our spirit. It’s the least accessible of all to other people. What is in our Holy of Holies? Our intuition, our conscience, and our abilibty to commune with God.
This makes so much sense to me. It resonates completely with my own reality. I can reflect on which part of me is wounded, when abuse has been inflicted. Am I physically wounded (as in physical violence or sexual assault)? If that’s the case, then my Outer Court has been violated.
Is it my thoughts that have been affected, so that intellectually, I can no longer believe what I used to? Is it my emotions that are so stirred that I can’t see straight? Is it my will that has been bent out of shape, so that I’ve either caved in or become so completely adamant that no one can talk to me? If that’s the main area of abuse, then my soul has been violated.
Is it my intuition that has been so jarred that I’ve lost my inner compass? Has the abuse caused my conscience to “wake up” and falsely (or accurately) blame me for the abuse? You know, a case of the “If only I had…, then….” Has my ability to pray so shocked me that I can’t pray any more?
It helps me sometimes to reflect on which part of my being is carrying the brunt of the wound. Is it what I’m thinking? Has my anger surfaced again? Do I need to search for a different way to pray, at least for a while?
Having said all this, I also must say that not only are we three “systems.” We are one whole being. What affects one part affects the other. I’m saying that perhaps thinking about the various parts of your Temple may help you as well, in your search for better days. In this way, you will be ministering to yourself.
Let’s hear one more time from St. Paul: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
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And remember, you're awesome! May God bless you and hold you in the palm of His hand.
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