The aspect or feature of humanity that allows us to imagine and craft a different future is ‘spirit’. For the moment, so as to eliminate confusion, let’s only speak of little ‘s’ spirit and leave capital ‘S’ Spirit out of this discussion. There have been long discussions down through the ages about what makes humanity unique, and trying to determine what differentiates humans from all other life, owing to the activity of God creating humanity in His image (Imago Dei). Some have thought it ration, others wisdom, and still others claim that a human having a soul is what it is. I could spend pages outlaying a biblical anthropology (the makeup of humanity according to the Bible), but this would be a major digression. Instead, I will assume that it is humanity’s possession of ‘s’ spirit that makes us unique.
What then is little ‘s’ spirit? It is humanity’s ability to transcend the confines of this world. This encapsulates imagination, asbstractization, inventing, and eagerness to explore/discover. There is likely more that goes into it, but this suffices for now. When Jesus says to me, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” what does this tell me? Due diligence demands we lay out the whole verse: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). The broader context tells us that the disciples fell asleep. To say it differently, the disciples succumbed to their creaturely limitations. Who doesn’t need sleep, after all? Jesus’ instruction is to go beyond this limitation to transcend their situation: “Watch and pray . . . .” There are few words that can better demonstrate both the human’s need and ability to transcend her context than “pray.” To pray is to simultaneous admit your limitations while transcending them through communion.
Humans are unique in this ability, this transcendent impulse, and it leads to imagination, story-telling, and cinematography. It leads moreover to inventions, cultivation of curiosity, and ever growing innovation: in a word, “creativity.” Our little ‘s’ spirit is on a quest of creativity, but its freedom from futility in all its endeavors happens when it reunites with the Spirit of God. I have so much to say about this, but it will have to wait, or I will get off point.
Our ‘s’ spirits serve us by letting us have and use our imaginations; likewise, our spirit serves us by driving us beyond our current situation, transcending our limitations. How this applies to sin in our lives is quite striking. Sin is a fundamental degradation or devolution of what humanity is designed to be. In Hebrew, it literally means “to miss the mark (חָטָא).” To imagine ourselves without a particular sin that holds us back owes to us having spirits. To break through that limitation, we envision us without the limiting sin. This is us transcending our current state. We then move to self-actualize this imagined new self. When I use the phrase “self-actualization” here, I strongly want it tied to “watch and pray.” The secret of humanity is that our strength and very composition is multi-personal, like the Trinity. To self-actualize can only be robust when tied to a communal activity like prayer, praise, and devotion. I could say so much more here too, but I need to bring this to a close; perhaps, I will break out some of these points for future discussion.
In sum, what we imagine we can be (“the spirit is willing”) comes from our unique spirit that God imbued us with. That our flesh is weak points to humanity’s essential lack of self-sufficiency. To overcome this weakness of flesh, we must transcend our current situation and look beyond to God: “watch and pray.” To utilize this “transcending ability” fully, it must be used to commune with the Divine. Humanity uses this unique ability all the time: movies, books, stories, myths, etc. We must not stop there, good as creating all these things are. We ought be ever industrious, creative, and curious, but we must unite this transcending ability to the Transcendent One, bringing home this ability to relish Him whose mystery can never be exhausted.