The Value of a Soul

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Reading this verse has often brought me great shame.  At times I have not seen my body as a glorious temple, but rather as something that needed to be used up and thrown away.  I thought belonging to God meant I was His slave, rather than a priceless treasure He gave His own Son to purchase.  These shameful beliefs have ruled my life for as far back as I remember.

I believed that the value of a soul was determined by how it was treated, and since I was treated very badly as a child, I determined I wasn’t worth very much.  I have walked around for years believing this lie and allowing it to rule my decisions.  As a result, I have made some very bad ones.

The question is – how can one who has grown up believing that they are worth so very little, believe that they are worth so very much?  How can one reverse the damage that’s been done and recognize that I am brand new? The only way is to believe what God says about me despite what my own feelings tell me.

Believe God values me.  Believe God wants what is best for me.  Believe He has set out to accomplish a great work in my life.  Believe what He tells us in the scriptures is true.  Believe that I am a glorious temple He has chosen to take up residence in forever.  Believe that He loves me more than my mind is capable of understanding fully.

In my early 20’s, God did something amazing in my life that caused me to believe.  My adopted father had passed away the year before, and I was walking around with anxiety vexing my soul like I’d never known before.  I didn’t understand where it was coming from, but I knew something was very wrong.  I went to church, but most of what I heard only reminded me of how short I fell and how guilty I was.  I couldn’t grasp God’s love or forgiveness in my mind, because I could not get past the lie that had told me my entire life I was worthless.  I worked for a man at the time who showed a lot of patience to me as I learned how to do my job.  For some reason his kindness awakened in my soul a desire for something more.  Even though I was married, I believed that maybe this man was the more I needed, however because God’s word contradicted this, I was in chaos.  The last thing I wanted to do was feel guiltier.  I knew the man was a Christian, so I went to him and told him about the chaos that was going on in my soul, and about how I was drawn to him.  As I look back on this time, it is clear that I was desperate, but at the time I did not know it.  I could tell it embarrassed him, but he didn’t take it personally and encouraged me to go home and read Romans 7.  He said these verses would help me to understand the battle between the flesh and the Spirit in my life.

It wasn’t what I wanted to do that day.  I’d read the scriptures before and they had only made me feel guilty.  I had not treated my body, God’s temple, in ways that honored Him and I believed God was disappointed in me.  I’d struggled on and off for most of my life with escaping life’s pain through lust.  I didn’t want to read His word and feel that disappointment again.  What I wanted was something to make me feel loved, beautiful and special, but I had no idea where to find that something.  Loud, condemning voices screamed in my mind that I was a terrible person for wanting someone other than my husband.  Other voices said I wasn’t so bad that I only wanted someone who appreciated me.  These contradicting voices caused a whirlwind of confusion.

In the background, a CD was playing, My Utmost for His Highest.  I’d recently begun reading the devotional book, and had purchased the accompanying CD.  The songs helped to calm my soul, but only on this day did I finally hear what God was trying to say when Where He Leads Me, I will Follow by Twila Paris began to play.

And there are many wondrous voices,
Day and night they fill the air,
But there is one so small and quiet,
I would know it anywhere,
In the city or in the wilderness,
There’s a ringing crystal clear,
And to be ever close beside Him,
When He calls me I will hear.

As this verse began to play, the voices in my head became silent.  Today, as I reflect back on those moments, I get a picture of Jesus in my mind holding out his hands and calming a violent ocean from raging hurricane.  Things in my mind became silent, and a gentle voice encouraged me to read my Bible.   Finally, after much deliberation I picked it up and began reading at Romans 7, but only when I got to Romans 8 did my eyes begin to open.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Romans 8:24-25

I knew that day that God was calling me to look beyond what I could see for my hope.  I realized the relief my soul desperately needed was in what I hadn’t seen or experienced in my life time, but rather in something that I’d never really known or seen.   What I read next blew me away.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:26-28

In the moments after I read these verses, things began to come together in my mind.  I was able to comprehend that God loved me so much that He was praying for me when I didn’t even know how to pray or what to ask for. Another picture came to my mind, that of a loving heavenly Father Who had been there during every moment of pain in my life grieving with me and praying for me.  The God of the Universe really did dwell in me and He wasn’t ashamed of me at all!  Rather, He was interceding on my behalf.   And my life totally changed.

The next day I recall going outside and hearing the birds sing in clarity I had never heard before.  The sun sparkled in a brilliant blue sky.  It felt like everything was new and it was.

But what happened?  How did I lose sight of the tremendous beauty of my newfound unseen hope?  How was it that I after many months of what could only be explained as bliss, did I become blind to His glorious love?  As much as I wish I did, I do not have all the answers to why, but what I do understand is that there was something very dark lurking in the corners of my subconscious mind; memories of something very evil that had taken place that needed to be brought out into the light.

Memories that began to leak slowly into my consciousness as I was triggered by circumstances in my life swirling out of my control.

Standing at my adopted father’s grave many years before, I’d told him that I forgave him, but I did not know all the reasons why.  I had despised him for most of my life.  He had disgusted me and made me feel about disgusted about myself.  I had pictures in my mind of sitting in his lap, him squeezing my knee, and feeling like I was a worthless piece of trash.  I thought telling him I forgave him would make what I felt go away, but it never had.  When the memories began to resurface, for the first time I began to understand all the reasons for the disgust, and my life became very dark.

Without going into all the details, during that same time, things at the church we had been attending began to spin out of control.  It felt like our family was in the middle of some sort of satanic spun F5 tornado.  Interestingly enough, my husband had just completed a Sunday School lesson on spiritual warfare.  I knew when I was in my right mind that what was going on was a battle in the heavenlies and that I needed to pray, but somewhere deep in my psyche I came to believe that things were somehow my fault and I fought hard to find ways to control the situation.  When my efforts failed, I was so disheartened and ready to give up on church all together.  Since the circumstances involved my husband’s family, he was disheartened as well.  We decided that the best thing to do was just leave that church.  And in December of 2004, we walked into another church that we believed was a safe place.  And that’s when all hell broke loose.

Why the memories began to resurface when I went to this pastor for counseling I will never fully comprehend.  All I do know is that I was desperately longing for some relief from the pain inside my soul, and rather than looking for that relief in my unseen hope, I sought it in this man that I could see.   And grabbing hold of the hope he offered resulted in a fall that was long, slow, and only brought more pain and much loss. 

Now here I am coming up on two years away from that abusive relationship wondering still why it all happened. And maybe I’ll never fully know. But what I do know, even more now than I ever knew before, is that my hope isn’t in what I see, but rather in the One that I cannot see with human eyes who loves me so much. And I long to bask in the glory once again of this unseen hope, to hear the birds singing and to enjoy the beauty of all He has created. To understand that I am His temple, the dwelling place of His very heart, and even after all that has been, the treasure that He still dearly loves and died for. There is no condemnation in Him, or shame or guilt, because He paid for it all. And He is still praying for me when I don’t know how to pray for myself. He’s always standing at the door of my heart waiting for me to open the door and let him come in and dine with me. But I am so afraid at times, not wanting to be still enough, quiet enough for fear that I might have to feel the pain of all the betrayal that has occurred. For fear that I might feel the shame once again of all that I did and all that was done to me. But then I remember His still small voice in my twenties, speaking through a Twila Paris song, and I know that despite my fears, despite my confusion, He’s always there praying for me. That will never change. He has promised good to me through all things good and bad. Dear God, please help me to believe this today through all of my circumstances. Help me to know that my soul is so very valuable and you proved it by dying for me on the cross. Come and live and breathe life into your temple and lead me wherever you want me to go.

There’s a great, broad road, through the meadow,
And many travel there,
But I have a gentle Shepherd,
I would follow anywhere,
Up a narrow path, Through the mountains,
To the valley far below,
To be ever in His presence,
Where He leads me I will go.

And there are many wondrous voices,
Day and night they fill the air,
But there is one so small and quiet,
I would know it anywhere,
In the city or in the wilderness,
There’s a ringing crystal clear,
And to be ever close beside Him,
When He calls me I will hear.

Where He leads me, I will follow,
When He calls me I will hear.

There is a great, broad road to nowhere,
And so many travel there,
But I have a gentle Shepherd,
I would follow anywhere,
Though the journey take me far away,
From the place I call my home,
To be ever in His presence,
Where He leads me I will go. 

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