And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
All My Soul
How do I love God with all my soul? I’m no scholar, but to me the word soul sounds even deeper and more weighty than the word heart. I usually imagine my soul as the deepest depths of who I am. It goes beyond my thoughts, attitudes and feelings of today, that would fall under the category of heart. My soul encompasses my deepest desires and longings, which are my motivators for all the choices I make in my life.
For example, ever since I was a kid I had a dream of being the best wife and mother I could be. This dream helped write my priorities in my subconscience as I was dating, which steered me away from dating around and resulted in a committed marriage directly after graduating from college. My dream guided my choice to quit working when I became a mother, because for me, that’s what I felt it would take to do my best at fulfilling my goal. Many years later, I now know myself well enough to know that a little work, balanced with family life, is actually what helps me achieve my goal best in this season. My choices have been directed by a desire deep in my soul that has not changed.
Surrendering My Dreams
This dream I’ve had since childhood is thankfully a good and God-honoring longing. But what about the other desires that are ingrained deep into my soul that I can’t seem to steer away from? Some of them are not helpful. Some are not always pretty. And in certain seasons of my life I have realized that some are flat-out displeasing to the Lord. Haven’t you ever had something in your life, some desire or hang-up that just keeps creeping up on you and you wish it would go away? Sometimes this is a heart issue, but when it comes to the deep stuff, it’s usually a soul issue.
I’m not an expert at this, but my way of loving God with all my soul is to choose to surrender when I see that I have a desire or longing that is not helpful in steering my life in a direction that honors God. In the same way that God wants my heart as-is so He can change it, He also wants my soul so He can form my dreams. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Over the years, I’ve let go of some of my uglier longings and in their place, God has given me new, more redeeming dreams in the depths of my soul.
If the first and greatest of God’s commandments to us is to love Him with all of our dreams and desires down to our core – our soul, then it seems to me that I need to be very intentional in helping my children develop ideas, goals and dreams that are full of Biblical truth and that honor God. One of the things I have always loved about PCA is that the teachers, the board, and the philosophy behind the school are all driven by the deeper things in life – the soul issues. One of the largest sparks that started PCA was the idea that education is not an experience to be taken lightly, rather it is something that affects and trains a person down to the core, or the soul. A student’s educational environment and content and the people who make up their day-to-day life play a huge part in shaping the dreams and desires of their soul.
PCA is intentional in teaching their students to love God with all their soul. From a big-picture stand point, I see this in the way the school teaches the students a lot of Scripture, theology through the catechism, and Bible stories with great historical detail. They also spend a great deal of attention on helping the students work out for themselves what these Biblical truths mean and how to apply them in life. This is done through daily assemblies, logic classes and debate activities in the upper grades and teachers who are eager to discuss the deeper issues.
Another thing PCA does to help students develop Biblical goals and dreams is to encourage them to develop Godly character. They do this in their day-to-day conversation, in the assembly themes and topics, as well as on their report cards with character qualities being “graded” as either Outstanding, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory. It’s wonderful to be in an educational community that takes God’s first and greatest commandment seriously and takes intentional steps toward encouraging students to love Him with all their soul.
In the next post, read about loving God with all my mind and how PCA has opened my eyes to what all this can mean.