Mind, Body and Soul
By V. Rev. Fr. Howard E. Sloan
In the beginning, God formed man from the earth and breathed His spirit into him to give us life. Jesus instructed us to love God with our whole heart, soul and body. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless and to the Ephesians that we should be renewed in the spirit of our mind. Man, therefore, is a trinity of mind, body and soul.
Of these three parts what is the most important? Without a right mind, how are we to learn or comprehend? If our body is sickly, how are we to function normally? And what does it mean to have a right soul or spirit?
The scriptures don’t differentiate the importance of one element over another. Paul writes that we are to glorify God in our body and spirit (1Cor. 6:20). It would be wrong, therefore, to advance one and ignore another. We should strive to maintain a proper balance of our mind, body and soul. Each is essential that we may fulfil our call to love God and one another.
An athlete trains themselves by watching their diet and conditioning their body. Likewise they condition their mind to envision success in whatever event they participate. They learn the rules of the event and study films in preparation for competition. The Apostle Paul drew similar comparisons for those in the church to “prepare” for living a life in Christ as if they were running a race!
One of the reasons the church fathers stressed fasting, was to condition our body and help us to focus on the spiritual. Fasting takes both mental and physical discipline. Yet, Jesus said that it isn’t what enters our body that defiles us, but what comes out of our mouth! Doing the one, assists us in accomplishing another.
But what if we are not in good health or suffer a physical or mental ailment that is not medically correctable? At the age of 70, my father was diagnosed with a tumor in his spinal cord which was inoperable. This resulted in him becoming a paraplegic and restricted to a wheel chair for the remaining 23-years of his life. Dad was an outdoors man who enjoyed a very active life prior to his illness.
Rather than complain or be bitter, my dad accepted the reality of his condition and made the best of his years. He continued to use the gifts of mind and spirit in engaging family and others. He became a powerful witness that despite his infirmity, he remained faithful and cherished each day as a gift. We need to be realistic in assessing ourselves and not just see limitations, but the gifts and talents that are God given.
Jesus told us that we are to know the truth and truth will set us free. We should set our minds to understand the principals of our faith so we may incorporate them in our life and act on them. He further said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could do the unimaginable. It is easy to be distracted or complacent. That is way we must be balanced in our approach. The mind maybe willing, but the body is weak. Oh how true!
How can we become more balanced in life? Jackie Mason, the comedian, was once asked how someone could possibly eat an elephant? His answer, “one bite at a time”. We need to take deliberate steps to achieve our goals and avoid over reaching one’s ability.
Mark Owen, a retired member of Seal Team Six, discussed the “three foot” rule in a recent interview on 60 Minutes. Mr. Owen stated the single most important hand hold or foot support in rock climbing was the one within three feet of your reach. Anything beyond that was foolish and could lead to disaster. I believe that lesson equally applies to everything we do in life. Over reaching one’s understanding or ability, despite our good intentions, may not be wise or beneficial.
If I decide, for example, to schedule a time for daily prayer and scripture reading, I need to be reasonable on when or how long I’ll spend on doing each. It isn’t prudent to say I ‘m going to set aside one hour, when I can only manage 15 minutes. Over reaching leads to frustration, discouragement and abandonment of objectives.
Maintaining a proper balance between the physical and spiritual is so important. Jesus taught us concerning the Kingdom of God by speaking in parables. Each parable related the practicality of everyday life. Whether it was the sowing of seed, drawing water from a well or embracing a rebellious son.
God has created us in His image. Our mind, body and soul are a unique gift given to us for a purpose. Let us glorify Him in all three!