Part of the Communion In Times Of Coronavirus series of gentle reflectionsInderjit Bhogal, 2020
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This is a beautiful thought, my constant mantra, and in my mind as I observe trees and plants restored in nature.
These words speak to me of an unsolicited gift of God, who restores my soul, even in sleep (Psalm 127:2). It is an ongoing gift rooted in the grace and generosity of God, and applies to all people of all ages.
The Hebrew word for “soul” draws attention to the core of a person’s being. It is the essence and seat of your being. I believe it is here we are one with God, a union that is never broken. Here we are in communion with God when we are aware of this and when we are not. And, in the words of St Patrick’s breastplate, God is the “soul’s shelter” and sanctuary.
There is something very special and sacred about the words “He restores my soul”. What message do they hold?
The writer of these words was perhaps a shepherd working hard to safeguard and hold a small flock together, seeking the best nourishment for the sheep, and being exhausted in the process. The shepherd is perhaps most able to relax and recover as she/he draws on the air of green pastures and gazes upon still waters, when the flock is together and safe.
From here emerges the reflection that God is the Great Shepherd who in the experience of the writer is always with her/him, and with those who are precious to her/him, and holds them together. This goes a long way to hold and restore her/his soul. From this grows her/his commitment to the pathways of righteousness, without fearing loneliness, and with the assurance that she/he has nourishment and goodness even when surrounded by “enemies”. The Psalmist concludes that this is where her/his ultimate rest is.
Restoration is a gift of God, but it is also rooted in communion with others. In the mind of Christ, the key lies in communion with two or three. Nurture lasting friendship with two or three special people with whom you are in a depth of communion that is best described in the term “soul mate”. These are people who are like nourishing pasture and pools of still water, in whom you find restoration.
In the context of coronavirus and Covid-19 the focus is rightly on medication. But we cannot ignore psychological and mental wellbeing. We are discovering more than ever that communion with others is essential to our health and contribution. We are troubled when anyone in distress is alone.
Do not underestimate the reassurance and restoration that can come from communication and communion in twos and threes. This is pastoral care. It strengthens our ministry.
The soul is precious. It is the centre of our resilience when our body is weak. Nevertheless, our body, with all its fragility and vulnerability is the sanctuary of our soul.
Perhaps the soul also is the “treasure in clay jars” we read of in 2 Corinthians 4:7. So the writer of these particular words goes on to say, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Even when your body is bruised and broken and exhausted, your soul within you will find pastures and pools, and paths of righteousness. It is treasured and restored by God.
Treasure Jesus’ Gospel wisdom that you should not seek material gain and wellbeing at the expense of your soul (Matthew 16:26; Luke 9:25).
Inderjit Bhogal, 6 April 2020