Apologies to a movie with roughly the same name where an interesting set of escaped convicts in the 1930’s try to find a lost treasure while being pursued by a relentless lawman. For many, finding their “soul mate” is a much desired treasure to be found on a path with many obstacles.
A friend told me a couple weeks back that a number of people are talking to her about having finally found their “soul mate,” and for some of these, this did not appear to be their spouse. They were puzzled about what to do. Hmmmmm. Started me thinking about that term.
So, where did it come from?
Most www sites talk about it in connection with Greek mythology, and I found the shortest, clearest summary on Dictionary.com:
Though the phrase soul mate gained steam toward the end of the twentieth century, the idea goes all the way back to Plato’s Symposium, written in 385-380 BC. In Symposium, when the two dialogists discuss love, Aristophanes tells Socrates that human beings used to have four arms, four legs, and two faces, and they were happy and complete. But Zeus was jealous and split them in two with his thunderbolt, and now humans spend their lives searching for their other half. This idea of an “other half” has been with us ever since.
Now, google™ tells me there are at least 800,000 results for “soul mates” and I did not attempt to explore them all. But, the ones I did scan – even the ones which hold on to the theory of “soul mates” – warned of the heartache which can come from holding this belief to an extreme, and most call it a theory – a speculation, a conjecture, a guess. The theory of “soul mates” falls into the category of myth, and the simple definitions most found for “myth” are fable, legend, fairy tale, allegory, illusion, invention, untruth, and the list goes on. Myths are stories which usually involve beings with more than human powers trying to explain mysterious events or religious beliefs.
So, why is finding one’s “soul mate” so tantalizing?
Now, obviously, no one today is looking to literally connect with another set of arms, legs, etc., as described above. But, my guess is that the person one chooses to marry is often considered largely because they just seem to “fit together.” They enjoy the same things. Mutual love brings them to the conclusion that they are “meant for one another.” They feel as if they “complete” each other. Others look at them and think they are “perfect for one another.” I think that our current view of marriage too often falls into the “I’ve-found-my-soul-mate” category. And, too often it brings disappointment.
So, what happens to the ones who haven’t happened on to their “soul mates” yet? I live in Colorado. What happens if my “soul mate” lives in Maine, or Peru, or Bangladesh, or,, heaven forbid, has died ? ? ? Well, you get the picture. How am I to know if or where to look? Does my singleness totally depend on whether or not I find “the one” and if so, what do I do with my heart desires in the meantime? Will I never be “complete” if I don’t find the soul mate?
So, how does the “soul mate” theory compare with what the Bible teaches?
Some try to put the “soul mate” theory into what Scripture teaches right from the beginning of Genesis where we are told God created Eve from a rib from Adam’s side. Adam’s response when he first saw Eve was, “Wow! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23) Obviously the “Wow!” is my version of what I think Adam must have said after his work of naming the animals was finished. Obviously, if there was only one other creature in Eden to whom he could relate and give himself totally to, they were obviously meant to be together. This seems to be the only option in Scripture in which there was only one solution to being together. But, there is nothing in the Genesis narrative which describes them as “soul mates.”
All through Scripture, the equation to describe God’s intention for marriage is 1 + 1 = 1
Genesis 2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Matthew 19:4-5 “Haven’t you read,” he [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘ made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?'”
Ephesians 5:31-32 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Even when folks stray outside their marriage engaging in sexual activity, “they [literally] become one flesh. (I Corinthians 6:16). They do not necessarily “become one” in soul or spirit. The oneness God intends goes far beyond what most of us think. Paul continues to take this far beyond the physical realm, saying in verse 17: “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.”
Ah, now we see that mere body to body with another person – or even soul to soul – is not all there is for us. This oneness we all seek is ultimately spiritual. It is in God alone that we can really be “one,” be total, be complete. Jesus prayed that for us in John 17:20-21. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . .”
So, here’s my take on the “soul mate” idea.
Out of the billions of people who have entered and left the world, I am blessed to meet any number of folks who become close friends. While the “other half” and “one soul mate” idea is intriguing, I am not bound to that limitation. For those of us like me, a “onesome” still hoping for another “onesome” with whom to enter into a mutual marriage covenant, life continues to be a great mystery. The details of much of my future days remain hidden to me. It is my privilege to simply keep walking one step at a time in the path God puts before me. One thing I do know. God has not promised marriage to me. He has promised an abundance of living in Him, single or married.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.”