Arrested Development

Arrested Development

I started composing this post while half asleep this morning. You know, that lucid state where your mind is active, but you’re not yet awake?

A random image formed in my mind’s eye. I believe it came from God. I pictured a man’s spirit floating like a vapor, contained by his body. His spirit actually looked compressed—as if created to be much larger than his human body.

hands holding the sun at dawnOur physical bodies serve as temporary housing for our spirits. That much is obvious. But what captivated me was this: while we’re here on earth, God wants us to develop a large spirit, full to the brim, and even overflowing. Yet many have an emaciated spirit, locked away, and kept on a limited diet.

The Bible talks a lot about humans having a soul, a spirit, and a body. These terms are commonplace throughout Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 distinguishes our souls as something different from our spirits, though some use these terms interchangeably.

John Paul Jackson teaches that the soul is our mind, our will, and our emotions. Our spirit, on the other hand, is where wisdom, conscience, and communion with God are found. And of course, our body is our body.  Without going into any complex theology, I do believe two important things:

Depressed woman on a benchFirst, that the soul needs “saving” and healing. A sin-sick soul displays what we are without God.

And second, that we experience God mostly through our spirits. God is Spirit and communes with us through our spirits.

Why are these two points important? Because, to the extent that our souls are damaged and our spirits remain undeveloped, we don’t have very good “receivers” in terms of hearing God.

Think of a small transistor radio with a cracked speaker, making a tinny noise. Compare that to a Bose stereo system giving off the full range of symphonic sound. Both receive the same invisible radio waves, but the quality of the receiver is vastly different.

The soul’s need for redemption and restoration is the subject of countless books and sermons. But few talk about the problem of an underdeveloped spirit—our main avenue for hearing God’s voice.

exclamation point vs question markJackson maintains that the soul often rules over the spirit as we try to live the Christian life. In our spirit, we know we’re supposed to turn the other cheek, but the soul overrules, and we slap back. The goal in our spiritual life is to bring the reverse. In order for that to happen, the soul needs healing, but the spirit also needs growth.

Soul or spirit–which one is doing pushups in your life?

Ultimately, God wants our spirits to have dominion over our souls.

This morning, God showed me a picture of a man with a large spirit.

I have met people like this. Perhaps you have too. The aroma of Christ is all around them. They are not ruled by their passions, and they don’t lean on their own understanding. They listen for God’s voice in critical moments of choice. They exude kindness, peace, patience, goodness and self-control. They’ve pursued life in the Spirit–connecting with God in vital ways.

Maybe these ideas shed some light on a very mysterious verse…

Man worship“So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” –Luke 8:18

In other words, the more we listen for God, the more He speaks. The more He speaks, the more we develop our spirits. And a larger spirit subdues the soul.

The less we listen, the less He speaks. Our spirits remain undeveloped, and we can end up stuck in a soulish response to life.

What do you think? I’d be interested in your thoughts…


  1. good question there, susan hill:

    “Soul or spirit–which one is doing pushups in your life?”

    today i will follow your reminder to follow our creator’s advice . . . to take care how i listen! therein lies the crux of this matter of being an alive human.

    and if i succeed in listening for at least a little bit today, who knows? maybe i can listen and tune in a little again tomorrow. it is my prayer for me and all who believe.

    suzee B

  2. Hi Susan,
    The more we listen for God, the more He speaks. The more He speaks, the more we develop our spirits….
    These are hard skills to teach…only the Holy Spirit can truly transform/inspire us on this path. Any practical steps to take that you can recommend?

    You had also mentioned you know individuals who have these qualities. They are often not famous and their life’s mission is to constantly ‘die to self’. The soul is good at misconstruing this… correct?

    • Hey Becky! Great to hear from you. As far as practical steps, I would recommend Brad Jersak’s book – Can You Hear Me?: Tuning In to the God Who Speaks. Growing your spirit comes down to learning to hear God’s voice and living according to God’s ways. Some of that includes dying to self, but even more so, intimacy with God is all-important. We are at war with our soulish ways, but the spirit can gain dominion over the soul as we learn to love what God loves and turn from the things He hates. Thanks for your comment! S