‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.’ Deut 6:5.
So says the verse that Jesus says is the most important commandment in the whole Bible. But what actually *is* the heart? And come to think of it, in these days of skepticism shorn of deep philosophical or spiritual roots, what is the ‘soul’? How do we love God with it? Not to mention with our strength?
Writing a song took me inside these questions, and I share about the process here in this video, recorded recently for our church’s online service:
When you want to say something ‘just beyond words’, write a song about it. So said bishop Graham Cray wisely once at a conference, and it stuck with me. Writing a song based on this verse helped me explore these three areas, and how they can all be oriented towards God in love.
The heart can be seen as the place of deep faith and trust (with a heart a person believes, Paul writes in Romans), unshaken even in the midst of trials (do not let your hearts be troubled, says Jesus). It is the deep place of faith that undergirds everything in our life. Guard it, warns Proverbs. So I wrote the first verse about this place, the ‘core’, the ‘centre’ of my life, being somewhere that a passion ‘remains, though the times and seasons change’.
The soul has sometimes (probably over simplistically) been defined as the combined substance of your mind, will and emotions – those things that make up your person and character. Here we begin to open ourselves to the world. So in Verse 2 of the song I very deliberately sought to use these three concepts: ‘As I think of all you are (mind), Gracious Father, my desire is to do your perfect will (will) . . . overwhelmed that you first loved (emotions)’ etc.
How we love God with our strength (Verse 3) might seem more obvious at first: ‘So I’ll be your hands and feet, serve the poor and help the weak’ – though it is no bad thing to be reminded of these kinds of things in the songs we sing as a church, I feel. But for me also it was so strongly supported by what came before it. We don’t merely start going and ‘doing Christian stuff’ because we’re supposed to. We do so because our hearts and souls are in it too – every part of us.
Not mentioned in the video above is the bridge. I felt by this point that we had been on a journey, observing how love can grow right from deep down inside of us, out through our thoughts and feelings and into our actions. It was only right then to conclude with a bridge looking ahead: ‘When I come to the end, let the sum of all I am’ – adding up all that has come before, heart, soul and strength – ‘be love for you, my King.’