by Steven Norris
The title of the book intrigued me: Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti. A bit reductionistic in its content, the title still perfectly described numerous conversations I’ve had with my spouse. I am pretty certain that I could teach a graduate level course on compartmentalizing experiences and emotions (putting everything in its box like a waffle). Though not always intentional, this is the way that I cope with and make sense of the world around me.
As a pastor, I regularly see people who push aside strong emotional responses to a situation because they “don’t have the capacity to deal with it” at a given moment. I see folks separate home life, work life, and recreational life as if one has nothing to do with the others. All too often, we compartmentalize our spiritual experiences in worship from the everyday moments that make up the rest of our week.
Common language around the idea of human beings as a combination of body, mind, and soul only furthers this separation. Without realizing it, many Christians draw our western ideas about anthropology (what it means to be human) from Greek philosophy as opposed to the Christian scriptures. For example, Greek philosophical thought suggests that the “soul” is something like the essence of a person — something immortal and non-physical — that is trapped within the body during life and released at death.
However, such compartmentalization would be the furthest thing from biblical anthropology. For instance, the Hebrew word for “soul” is the word nephesh. In the book of Genesis, we read, “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a nephesh (living being).” In the Hebrew understanding, humans do not have a soul, they are a soul. In other words, God’s intent for the creation of humanity was not compartmentalized parts, only wholly integrated beings.
Lent is a perfect time to turn our attention to the ongoing task of integrated living — of bringing the various parts of our lives into alignment with one another. The practices of Lent (reflection, prayer, confession, etc.) provide the perfect space to question some of the boundaries we have set up to keep the various parts of our lives in their “proper” place.
If we are serious about living into our calling as a nephesh (a living organism, an integrated whole), then maybe we could use this season to ponder a few of the following questions: In what areas am I segregating my life? What emotions have I pushed aside because I didn’t want to deal with them? How are my spiritual practices carrying over into the way I interact with my family or conducting myself at work? How are my spending habits and travel itinerary shaping my soul? How am I caring for my body as a spiritual practice?
Lent is a time to honor the nephesh that God created you to be. It is a time to grow into a robust and mature faith characterized by integrity, courage, and wholeness.