Bullseye to the Soul
You know when you hear a song (often it’s one you don’t even like), and suddenly it becomes the soundtrack of your life? In the shower, pulling into the school pick-up line, pushing your cart down the milk aisle at the grocery store, jogging around Radnor Lake, even drifting off to the land of nod, you are humming that tune. You can’t shake it. The same can happen with a scripture or spiritual thought. Recently, a colleague with an especially sage and kind heart mentioned a piece of scripture in passing. Before I knew it, James 1:23 had grabbed me by the collar with no intention of letting me go. Like a well-seasoned bone tossed to a drooling hound dog, I would gnaw on the words, “We go to a mirror, look at ourselves, then go away and forget who we are.”
A divine arrow, released from God’s quiver—It was a perfect bullseye to my soul.
Suddenly, I became that first-year divinity school student again on an exegetical hunt for the deeper meaning behind the words. James sets the scene: We go to the mirror, not to scrutinize the crows feet or deep-grooved laugh lines, but to look deeper. Good ol’ Saint James is asking us to peel the onion, strip off all our titles and earthly identities, until we reach our “true and authentic self.” This is the person stripped bare of the epithets of Mr. or Mrs., mother, doctor, minister, student, octogenarian, kid, cancer survivor, adulterer, rich, poor, religious or cynic. This is the “being,” or correctly stated, the soul. As Rumi said, “You are the soul of the soul of the soul.”
When you look in the mirror, who are you truly? Or, better said: Who are you before God.
The words, “Made in God’s image,” are etched by Divine hand somewhere mysterious on the cover of every heart. What does it mean? At our truest self: We are hope. We are love. We are divine intuition. We are light. We are resilient.
We are divine.
There is nothing as exquisite as a bared soul before the One who called it into beautiful being first. Maybe you were told otherwise in church or by a less than ideal childhood, marriage, or just life’s broken road. Maybe this ugly graffiti has tried its best to reshape your heart and make you a cynic, but hear me now, it is the greatest lie spun by human lips. True and abiding love, of the Divine kind, cannot and will never diminish, hurt, or break your soul. Maybe you wear the scars of heartbreak, but your soul, that most beautiful part of you, will never be breached or tarnished by this broken world. When you look into the mirror, I mean really look deep behind the eyes, it is God staring back at you.
Whether you can remember it or not, you were once an innocent babe in a manger, a star with your name upon it pinned to the night sky. Love was your first and only language. No wonder even the cynic in us feels a tug at our heart when we hold a baby in our arms. For just a split second, we know intuitively that we are holding the precious and purest dream of the upmost and highest Dreamer.
For God, we are each, eternally sacred—the beloved of the Beloved.
Maybe the years have built some serious scaffolding around your innocent heart. But if you can dare to look yourself in the eye, past the hurt, the doubt, the despair, you’ll witness a glint of glory. God will always see the best in us even, and especially, when we cannot see it for ourselves.
We have to remember who we truly are at our sacred center. Whether at the ripe age of thirteen, forty-two, or eight-five years strong. If not, we will spend a lifetime of gifted breaths asking the question, “Is this all there is?”
But the sharp point of the arrow in this particular “sock you in the gut” scripture is: “And then you look away and forget who you are.”
How many times have I bared my soul at the altar, experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding, turned away soul-nourished and full of hope, only to immediately forget who I am. And more heart-breaking, forget who my God is. Call it spiritual amnesia! Take heart, there is not one human being from the beginning of time that has walked this planet, even the great of the greatest saints, who has not once and again allowed the earthly life to blind them to the beauty of their soul and the love of their Creator.
Life’s great tragedy is that we pray, we meditate, we accept the bread and wine, we do an act of kindness, we speak a word of hope, and we embrace God in another human being, only to walk away and forget the shine of our soul and that momentary gift of transcendence.
If we only know for certain two things during the whole of our life, may we discover, remember and know intimately who we are…truly, and who our loving God is!
Live in Hope,