The Soul’s Country
By David Ramos
“And the Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” Genesis 12:1
“Where are you?” What a fascinating question God asked Adam, “Where are you?” This question is loaded with theological significance Adam must deal with himself, his condition, his identity and the location of his soul. I remember when I first heard the question, “Who are you apart from your personal history and your ethnicity?” Often our identities are very much defined by these points of departure. What are the elements that bind us to communities, neighborhoods, and/or associations of choice? Does history equal destiny? How do we navigate our spiritual identity in the midst of culture, ethnicity and social location? Are there times when the soul transcends these categories? Can we transcend these categories in healthy ways without inflicting violence upon the constructs of our identity, whether they are deliberate or not?
As a Nuyorican, progressive Pentecostal, male, on July 4th I would like to say that I am proud to be American, I guess you can say that I am AmeRican, I own the dual identity of being a Hispanic American. Yet in spite of how rich my beloved culture is, there are moments when these cultural constructs fall short of the totality of who I am or even the trajectory of the Spirit’s leading. I am in no way suggesting the ethnicity is but an appendage, what I am positing however, is that we must be open to the Spirit of God who will minister to us in ways that are often foreign to our precious constructs of reality or even our carefully manicured theologies. There are moments when we will stand before the threshold of a different reality, a different geography of grace, reality, and identity—the soul’s country! If we intrepidly launch into this sacred territory we can experience spiritual breakthroughs in our lives.
What is the soul’s country? How do we get there? How do we know if we have arrived? While I cannot answer these questions for the needs of your soul are different than mine, and the plans, purposes, and promises God has in store for you are different than the ones he has for me, I can nevertheless make some generalizations. The soul’s country is the place of God’s will and blessing for your life; the soul’s country is the place of fulfilling one’s calling and purpose; the soul’s country is the alignment of one’s gifting, talents, idiosyncrasies, and temperament with God’s Kingdom purposes in manners that can mutually benefit you and those whom you serve. In short the soul’s country is walking in the progressive divine appointments that actualize God’s purposes as well as our identities.
Social Location as Place of Ministry
Surely social location must matter to God, in the book of Acts there is an interesting verse, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Acts 17:26). I believe that it matters to God where people reside. Surely there are opportunities and challenges wherever we go, however, I believe that God purposed that some go to certain regions to fulfill their destinies. Paul felt compelled to go to Rome, Jesus set his face like a flint towards Jerusalem, Jonah, the reluctant prophet, attempted to avoid his appointment with destiny, but ultimately obeyed God’s call (with a little bit of divine persuasion). Many of us are called to urban ministry, rural ministry, or even global evangelism in developing countries. It truly matters where we serve, yet there are times when we are called to leave. Abram was called to leave his country, his kindred and make the difficult journey of faith, to go into uncharted territory. What must of this been like for Abram? I tend to walk right over this and not consider what he must have gone through. Abram left his family and friends behind and this must have hurt deeply. Surely he knew deep down inside that there were some that he would never see again, yet he knew within his spirit that he had to obey God. Abram would embark into the great unknown, all he had was faith and a promise, a promise that God would make good on, a promise that would bless him and through him—nations!
Leaving to Another Country: When is it time to leave?
1. By God’s Call
To begin with, we must experience God’s call. Do we feel a burden for a particular people group, culture or social location? Are moved in our hearts for a particular kind of ministry (i.e., mercy ministry, justice ministry, ecological ministry)? Do I feel a peace about moving? In 1988 I traveled to Venezuela on a missions trip and felt an incredible peace in that country, I felt so linked with its people and inside my spirit I knew that I could live there should God want me to. I never did return, however, was indelibly changed by that experience. Many have left their country of origin to find citizenship in foreign countries. America was build by immigrants who left their lands, their kindred, and at times even their cultures in order to live in the United States. The call of God can lead us in new directions, it doesn’t always make sense, yet many share of a leading of God’s Spirit and a sense of peace about God’s direction in their lives. For many it is both a geographic journey as well as a spiritual journey to reach the soul’s country.
2. When staying is detrimental to our spirit
God has not called us to be oppressed. God moves to liberate the oppressed to bring them to freedom and a new life, a life of possibility, purpose and blessing. Bondage can take many forms that oppress the heart, mind, spirit and body. There are times when we must move to another location because where we are is doing violence to our spirit. This does not mean that we are to flee when the going gets rough. Many times we are called to serve in places that are incredibly difficult, places that will require extreme sacrifice. Difficulty does not mean that we ought not be present, challenges may actually confirm that we ought to be there, however, abusive conditions or meaningless suffering does not glorify God. God delivered his people from oppression and judged those who mistreated Israel.
3. When there is a higher purpose elsewhere
There are times when God’s timing is different than what we anticipate. His timing is not ours. There are times when moving by obedience will bring us salvation not only to ourselves but to others as well. There are times that a higher purpose is being crafted by the Spirit of God. David thought he was bringing lunch to his brothers on the battlefield but he actually had an appointment with destiny that would transform his life and all of Israel, on that fateful day he would become a giant killer! Esther thought her role was to be a king’s wife, but she had an appointment with destiny, on a fateful day, through her obedience, she would save her life and all of Israel from genocide! Joseph must have at times felt despondent in a prison cell but God was moving him ever more closer to his date with destiny, Joseph moved from the prison cell to the royal throne, and he would deliver Egypt and all of the region from starvation! There are times when we cannot figure out the difficulties we encounter nor the labyrinth we are going through but God is moving us closer to our dates with destiny. In life we must move by faith if we are to follow the promptings of the Spirit of God, if we are to fulfill the plans and purposes of God for our lives, if we are ever going to occupy the soul’s country.