To restore is to put something back as it was. If we are to live in shalom, some restoration work is needed, and it is ‘he’ — the Lord who is my shepherd — who restores my soul.
The word ‘soul’ here does not mean what many in our culture think it means. The commonly held view (popularised by Plato) is that our souls are a detachable part of our being, somehow contained — or even trapped — in our physical bodies.
The Hebrew word translated as ‘soul’ here is “nephesh”. When God made Adam, he made him from the dust of the earth and then breathed the breath of life into his nostrils and he became “nephesh” — a living being (see Genesis 2:7). A better understanding of our soul is the uniqueness of our being as a living person. Or we could say, our soul is the real person — the real ‘me’. You do not have a soul; you are a soul.
Restoring our soul is about us becoming the real person we were made to be. In the previous reflection we acknowledged that our full lives can prevent us from living in fullness, and fullness begins with stillness. In the stillness, we discover what is essential and what is incidental to our lives. We can then make our lives less full in our doing, and more full in our being.
Similarly, if the real ‘me’ has been shaped by people, experiences and influences that are not the Lord who is my shepherd, then I will increasingly struggle to live in my true identity. To live as the real ‘me’, I need to be restored by my Shepherd, so I can know my true identity. Once I know who I really am, I can grow as that person and live increasingly in shalom. The key to knowing who I am is knowing whose I am. If I belong to the Lord who is my shepherd, then I will know who I really am.
Getting your life back
The best news about the Lord restoring my soul is that I get my life back! When the Lord restores my soul, I start to live as a true human, the one he made me to be.
When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, he told him he would have to be “born again” to see and enter the Kingdom of God (see John 3:3ff). The Kingdom of God is the place where God is King and all of creation lives in shalom. Throughout the Old Testament period, the great prophets spoke in different ways about the age to come where we receive a new heart; where swords are beaten into ploughshares; where the wolf dwells with the lamb; where the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about seeing and entering the Kingdom of God, both had in mind the age to come and a life of shalom. And Jesus made it clear: you have to be born again to live a life of shalom.
Being born again is another way of saying “he restores my soul.” It is an opportunity to let go of everything that has defined and shaped our lives so far; our dreams and ambitions, our fears and doubts, even our certainties, and especially our concepts and ideas of who God is; and be reborn as the person the Lord made us to be.
A newborn baby experiences everything as new. When we are born again, we too find that our lives are filled with newness: new ways of seeing, new ways of thinking, new knowledge for our renewed minds, new love for our new hearts, and so the list goes on. Even many familiar things now take on a new meaning and they too seem to be restored.
We all know that we can be Born Again (capital ‘B’, capital ‘A’) at a defined moment in our lives where we choose to follow Jesus. But we can also experience being born again (lowercase ‘b’, lowercase ‘a’) every day. New encounters with God; fresh insights from the scriptures; powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit; all these can be so life-changing that we experience another way to be born again. The Lord, our shepherd says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). The Lord’s work of restoration is not static, but ongoing. Every day is a fresh opportunity to be reborn and become ourselves more fully.
This is how it is when the Lord restores my soul. I am reborn by God’s Holy Spirit and I get my life back — he restores my soul.
May you live in Shalom, and may you know that the Lord will restore your soul.
May you know who you really are by knowing whose you really are.
May you be born again this day and every day as the Lord restores your soul.