When you think of God as Soul
Soul insists that we act with the openhanded, openhearted generosity and kindness that only God can provide.
I’ve been thinking about a children’s book called God’s Gifts by Joan Emily Beringer that explains what happens when we consider the nature of God. There’s something about the simplicity and friendly homeliness of the format that makes it easy to see how accessible spiritual sense is and what a difference it makes in our lives.
The writer goes through the terms used in the definition of God in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (see p. 587 ), and describes some of the everyday ways in which we can recognize the character and nature of God all around us. God is Life, which sends healing thoughts; God is Truth, which inspires honesty; God is Love, which helps us remember to be patient and kind.
These commonplace examples show how natural it is to respond to God’s always-present goodness. It is comforting to know that wherever we are, these divine qualities are active and operating. And it’s helpful to recognize not only that we are made by God to appreciate these divine attributes but also that it is important for us to live them on a daily basis.
Take the page in Beringer’s book that explains God as divine Soul: “As you express Him as SOUL,” it says, “you have plenty of joy to share with the friend who knocked your sand castle over yesterday.” There’s a picture by Dora Leder, the book’s illustrator, of two little boys at a seashore, one cheerfully holding out a toy sailboat to the other, who had previously acted in anger.
Sometimes, when we read or hear the term soul, we think of the embodiment of a personal gift or inspiration—a musician playing with feeling that transcends the written notes, a painter whose brush seems to know what to do of its own accord, a speaker who taps into a fresh idea and uplifts her audience. But Beringer’s description of Soul with a capital S gets at the infinite spiritual good behind such expressions and identifies it as God and the outpouring of His love.
The little boy in the picture could have joy to spare for the same reason Christ Jesus told his disciple Peter that he could afford to forgive someone not just seven times but “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22 ). Jesus taught his followers to trust in God’s provision and love without fear and to remember that we are inseparable from God, Soul. Only by actively accepting the spiritual fact that our Father-Mother God’s gifts are always with us, Her ever-present nature unchanging and pervasive, will we be able to see and share the blessings that come from living as a child of God.
Soul assures us that there is something more fundamental to consider than a merely human accounting of a situation. It insists that we reckon using the calculus of Spirit, God, and act with the openhanded, openhearted generosity and kindness that only God can provide. To think of God as Soul instead of imagining soul as personal and subject to the vagaries of material conditions is to see kindness, provision, inspiration—all sorts of spiritual resources—as present, even when those good gifts might not seem immediately apparent.
That Soul-sense came to my thought on a recent morning walk with a friend and my dog, Turi. We were following trails through sage and wildflowers when the dog came bounding back toward me through a patch of cholla cactus. She began making desperate attempts to pull cactus spines out of a paw with her teeth. The needles were soon spread to her face and another leg. My friend wondered if it would be possible for us to pull them out by hand, but given the dog’s frenzied behavior, this seemed unlikely.
Another hiker appeared with a pair of pliers and offered to help. She quickly realized that there was no safe way to get near the needles. She went back up the trail, and my friend went home to get her car and to contact my husband.
Alone with my sweet dog, I found my thought flooded with spiritual truths. All those divine provisions of harmony and inviolable peace—of Soul’s many goodnesses—were right there with us. They could not be absent any more than God could be absent. I began singing hymns as a way of conveying a sense of God’s presence to the dog.
She calmed down and stopped shaking her head and lunging at her feet. Soon she jumped up, gave herself a shake, and led the way up the trail. It was about three quarters of a mile to the point where we could be picked up, and we had a truly glorious time together appreciating all there was to see and smell and be delighted by. When my friend arrived in her car, Turi leaped happily into the back.
My husband met us at home and was very glad to see that there was no trace of the cactus spines anywhere on the dog’s body. He told me that when he first heard what had happened, he immediately remembered and was buoyed by these words from Science and Health: “A spiritual idea has not a single element of error, and this truth removes properly whatever is offensive” (p. 463 ). That ready declaration of spiritual truth was Soul’s provision for him.
The wrongs we encounter are never truly part of a person, place, or thing, but represent the contention that we operate in a God-free zone, trying to make the best out of changing material conditions. That morning, I’d been inspired by ideas in that week’s Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly, which was on the subject “Soul and Body.” The Bible’s counsel to “rejoice in the Lord” (Psalms 33:1 ) had come with me on the trail, so when everything seemed to go wrong, I had something deep, true, and meaningful to stand with.
As the Lesson put it: “How much more should we seek to apprehend the spiritual ideas of God, than to dwell on the objects of sense!” (Science and Health, p. 510 ). When you think of God as Soul, you do have plenty of joy to share, because you know that the spiritual ideas of God have power, substance, and ultimate authority.