Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 5, 2007
God wrote his own signature on our soul
And with it, he included our desire for heavend
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
Is there such a thing as a "signature of the soul"? C.S. Lewis certainly thought so. He wrote about it in his book The Problem of Pain. He suggested that this signature of the soul can be stirred deep within us by "the smell of cut wood in a workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat's side."
Lewis said: "All things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been hints of it (the signature of the soul) - tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear."
The recent death of my 92-year-old mother convinced me Lewis was right. Her body was racked with cancer but her mind remained crisp and clear.
Very near the end, she drifted somewhere in a mist between a light coma and a vague, undefined semi-consciousness. Periodically she was aware of her surroundings but said little.
I tried to comfort her with memories dating back to my happy childhood but none cheered her. Tender memories for me meant something different to her. A gulf yawned between us that only intensified her loneliness and my sadness.
In a desperate attempt to evoke sweet memories from her past I resorted to reaching into her years as a young girl. The problem was that they were decades before I was born. I searched the memory bank of my own brain for tales I heard about her youth.
It was shaky ground to be on because she jealously guarded those years. I feared if I treaded into that time she would rouse herself to chastise me as an imposter. But I ventured there anyway; I presume it was the mid-1920s.
Uncle Tom's farm
"Do you remember Uncle Tom's farm?" I asked uneasily about some distant relative I never met.
"You had such wonderful times there, didn't you?"
She nodded weakly still smiling. Her spirit was starting to calm - I could sense it. So I ventured further into memories I did not know.
"Remember that horse of Uncle Tom's you and Dorothy (her sister) used to ride? What was its name?"
Mom mumbled something unintelligible.
Knowing she had a scar on her right leg from a horse accident I gambled and said, "Oh yeah, he bolted out of the barnyard with you on his back and ripped your leg open on the gate." I reached down to her leg and touched the old scar. (Phew! That story came back to me in the nick of time.)
Mom frowned and breathed painfully at the memory. It must have really hurt - she made a dreadful frown.
I stepped precariously out on a limb of presumption and said, "Uncle Tom ran and picked you up and took you back to the farmhouse. Remember?"
She nodded like a little girl.
"Remember how Uncle Tom took you and Dorothy on winter sleigh rides with the horses?" I was on safe ground here. Over the years my mother often told me about her happy memories of snuggling with her sister under a huge pile of buffalo blankets and furs while travelling across Saskatchewan farm fields blanketed with virgin snow.
"Boy, those were cold winters, weren't they?"
She gave a mock shiver.
I leaned close to her pillow and whispered in her ear, "Remember the smell of straw in Uncle Tom's barn." This was not a question but rather a statement. I know the smell of barns.
"The air was so cold and still. The horses snorted, steam from their nostrils would hang in the air. Remember how they moved about in their stalls - their hoofs banging against the wood?"
Her face softened into a look of a private, soulful vision. Was she transported into a momentous childhood spiritual experience that was transporting her somewhere else?
Her tired and, dim eyes opened but did not focus. She seemed to be looking somewhere beyond the ceiling.
I am certain an ancient longing was awakened in her soul. But a longing for what?
It certainly was not a yearning for straw or barns or brittle Saskatchewan winters. It was not in those things, but through them, that she was transported to a primordial longing, an uncertain desire that she was born with.
The memory of her past was merely a vehicle toward what C.S. Lewis called the "signature of the soul."
Everyone has a signature of the soul. Each signature is as unique as the individual who bears it. It is a secret signature that cannot be shared or communicated - but it's there.
The signature of the soul creates a desire for something we have never had. This desire remains vague and uncertain from before birth to old age. I say before birth because the Bible tells that God knew us in the womb. He was there!
He even mentioned us by name while we were in the matrix of our mothers and inscribed it in the palm of his hand. Is this inscription the signature of the soul?
Yes, I am increasingly convinced it was there, in our primordial state, that God planted his signature along with a seed of desire for heaven. We were born desiring it.
With Christ, a person's signature of the soul will bloom in the joy of heaven. Without Christ, a person's signature of the soul will be lost, along with everything that ever mattered.
(Visit Mark Pickup's blog for his reflections on life issues and Christianity at humanlifematters.blogspot.com.)
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