Beware the barrenness of a busy life.~ Socretes
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?~ Jesus
Selling your soul in exchange for something is a plot trope older than the story of Johann Faust. In pop culture it’s primarily conceived of in Christian terms—sell your soul to the devil, and you’ll never get to heaven but you’ll have something you want on earth, whether that’s fame, talent, love, money, or some other fifth option.
I drink coffee with folks every week who would never admit that they have sold their soul to the devil. Because they imagine the devil as a cartoon character or comic book villain. In truth he is much more beautiful and seductive than any of that. Don’t believe the lie. He is a wily one, ole Slewfoot.
One of his favorite tactics is seduction. And part of what it means to be seduced is that the perpetrator knows our weaknesses and exploits them. Do you feel unloved? Let me adore you. Do you feel insignificant? Let me worship you. Do you feel insecure? Let me take care of you. And when we listen to the silver tongued soul-whisperer, we find our deepest thirst quenched—for the moment. We are like the frog who feels safe in the water because it is in the nature of an amphibian to find comfort there—all the while Mestophilises is gradually turning up the heat on the pot and before we know it he has made a soup of our lives.
Eugene Peterson paraphrased Jesus’ words, “What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” What are you willing to wager to get what you want out of life? Are you satisfied with the life you are living? What deal have you struck?
I read recently that the soul has no external gauge so we can’t tell how full or empty or in what condition it is in. Don’t you wish it did? But there are some ways we can check the condition of our souls if we can quiet the siren song of the evil one long enough to listen to what our bodies and our souls are saying. Here are a few marks on the soul-gauge:
- Are you easily irritated these days?
- Are you excessively defensive when criticized?
- Are you increasingly indecisive about relatively simple decisions?
- Do you find yourself drawn to the refrigerator or cupboard when you aren’t even hungry?
- Are you thinking about short-cuts to success that on your better days you would not consider?
- Can’t turn your brain off?
- Have you made a series of bad judgments?
- Is fear, anxiety, and worry your constant companion?
- Do long sighs leak out of your lips like a giant balloon is being deflated? Does this happen several times a day?
- Trouble sleeping?
- When you relax do you feel guilty?
There is a shy part of you that if you ignore it you will suffer tragic long-term effects. It is called your soul. Many folks I know are wagering that because the soul is hidden that it is unimportant. But the valves of your heart are hidden too, and yet if they get clogged, you are a walking time-bomb.
The good news is that Jesus is very concerned with state of your soul. I want to give you two verses to ruminate upon.
Read them slowly and let the Galilean whisper become an earworm.
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. Revelation 3:20 (NRSV)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
My mother was born in Texas and has a little bit of a Texas accent when she talks even though she has lived away from that foreign country for decades. When I was a boy I remember noticing that when in the company of my aunt that my mother’s Texas accent grew more pronounced and affected. It was like the more these two sisters who love each other were in one another’s presence they spoke with the same inflections, rhythms, and tones. In fact, if you weren’t in the room with them it was hard to tell who was speaking.
You and I have a choice about whose voice we will fill our ears. It will impact your life for the good or the not-so-good. You don’t have to worry about changing your life-patterns to hear the devil. His voice is the white noise that is all around us, for he is the god of this world. Ignore him at your peril. I promise you he is not ignoring you. But will you arrange your life in such a way that your can hear the voice from Galilee?
The Faustian plot is indeed quite old, but so is the hope of the Kingdom of God…but you must listen for a still and small voice—a whisper—and you have to go to him.
Jesus says, “Are your ears awake? Listen.” Rev.3:22(MSG)