Thursday, April 11, 2013

Commit My Spirit

The title of this meditative reflection occurred to me when I heard the news that a loved one of a friend of mine was not doing well.  Commit my spirit is a phrase I have often pondered.  I know it is sometimes used in prayers at the time of memorial services and funerals.  More frequently, it is used at the graveside when family and friends prepare to lower the body into the earth.  “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” goes the line from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.    

Clearly at the time of death, the body ceases to be a living thing.  Literally the body “expires.”  Spiro is the Latin word for “breath” or “spirit.”  When the breath---the final breath---is blown out---“ex”---the body is no longer living.  Many religious traditions hold that the spirit somehow continues…it lives on.  This is one way to understand that we commit our spirits.  We commit them back to God.          

It is not important here to try to figure out how the soul fits into the picture.  I personally like the language of “soul.”  I understand “soul” to be the essence of me.  And your soul is the essence of you.  In this sense “you” are no longer the same when you die.  Your body is not the essence of you---even though while you live, body is certainly part of your essence.          

When I thought about this further, I realized we don’t have to die in order to talk about soul and spirit.  They are very much part of the living.  Since I have a spirit and soul, I can live fully.  I can live soulfully and a spirited life in this world.  In fact, that is very much how I hope to live.

That is how I connect to the idea that suggests we commit our spirit.  I want to figure out how to commit my spirit each and every day of life…all the days before I, too, expire.  I know I have choices in life.  And one important choice is how to live life.  I choose to commit my spirit.  If I can do that, I am confident I can live a soulful and spirited life.  That will enrich my life experience and it will make the world better for all those with whom I come into contact.          

When I ponder the idea of committing my spirit, I remember the words of the Psalmist.  Psalm 31 has the Psalmist address God.  The Psalmist says, “You are indeed my rock and my fortress.”  There are many ways to see and understand God.  I value highly the variety of metaphors to describe the Divinity.  To call God a rock and a fortress introduces two powerful metaphors.  Obviously rocks are hard, sturdy and durable.  Rocks can be used to build things---strong things.  To call God my rock is to acknowledge that God will always be there.  God will be there through thick and thin---whenever I need God.

That is the kind of Divinity to which I can commit my spirit.  It is not risky.  It is sure.  To commit my spirit to the rock is as solid as it comes.  And with the image of fortress, we get a similar metaphor.  A fortress is a safe, protective place.  One certainly wants to be inside a fortress---out of harm’s way.  I am not so na├»ve as to assume with God I can avoid all troubles and problems.  Of course, every human being is going to encounter rough patches in life.

But from within the fortress of God, I can prevail.  I probably will be buffeted, but not blow away.  I might be dented, but I will not be destroyed.  I have faith in that and my hope is surely placed.  With the freedom of the fortress, I can go forward soulfully.  I am free from becoming scared and free for becoming a saint.          

The 31st Psalm also asks God to “take me out of the net that is hidden for me.”  That is an interesting image.  To have a net hidden for us is to acknowledge there are traps and pitfalls in life.  It is impossible to live soulfully if we have been trapped in the net…or even living in fear of being trapped.  There is an answer and an antidote.  That is the Holy One.

The Holy One will take us out of the net, as the Psalmist says, because “you are my refuge.”  And then comes the passage that I remembered.  The Psalmist says to God, “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”  I want to be able to say the same thing each morning as I engage the new day.  Into your hand I commit my spirit.
 
But I want that to be more than mere words.  They are easy words to utter.  More than that, I want my life to speak those words, too.  Verbally and soulfully I want to commit my soul unto the Divinity.  I want to be so secure in the fortress of God that I am radically free to be boldly present in the world.  

I want to be a change agent.  I want to be a spiritual transformer in a world that needs love instead of hatred.  I want to be transformationally present in a world that needs peacemakers instead of troublemakers.  Today I commit my spirit.

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