Barrett Owen

The Rev. Barrett Owen, pastor of First Baptist Waynesboro in Waynesboro, when he was two or three years old.

It’s true we are all sinners, but we did not used to be. At the start of our lives, we were perfect.

Here is a picture is of me somewhere between two and three years old. This little boy is not sinful. He is not grotesque or undeserving. He was born into a sinful world destined to be a sinner, but he did not start that way. And neither did you.

At the start, we were fully integrated with what scholars call our soul or soul-child. The soul is our most precious, holy space. It is the place where we understand on a cellular level that we are made in the image and likeness of God. And it just so happens we are the closest and freest to our soul as a child.

Think about it like this: Children are unhinged. They are unhinged with righteousness, joy, and love. Children show us what the raw divine/human encounter looks like because they live out of an unconditioned soul. There is no sin or ego or systematic injustice weighing them down.

And I am mesmerized by them. Children are pre-verbal, yet they understand holy love. How? I think it is because they so easily learn through the language of their senses. They understand safety through touch and trustworthiness by seeing into their parents’ eyes. A truly loved child lives unhinged, free. She gives love and receives love freely because she lives out of her soul (which is what connects her to God).

To understand what I am talking about, just get any baby to smile at you. You are transported because kids are pure, unconditioned, sin-freed soul. They are perfectly joyful and hopeful because they are still at the start. And we were once too, until sin hinged us and conditioned our soul.

To live a spiritual life means we live in a way that ‘returns’ or ‘goes back’ or ‘reintroduces’ us to our soul. I am not saying we need to become children again; but, spiritually-speaking, we need to re-access that place in us where we feel child-like, where we know of God’s unhinged presence, so we can (re)connect to it.

And that’s what Paul is inviting the church in Rome to do. He is telling them how they can go back to the start.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:12-13, NRSV)

So what does Paul say we do to return to the start? We confess.

We say to ourselves and to God: “I’m a sinner. I sin. I fall short. I abandon the right path out of ignorance or convenience or secrecy or hypocrisy. I am so ruthlessly damaged as a human being that finding a way forward is impossible. When left to my own devices . . . I sin. Forgive me, Lord. I now know forward is not the way forward, returning is.”

We, then, sit in God’s presence with this confession. We let God hear it. We let our soul feel it. By opening ourselves up like this, we begin to understand the depth of Romans10:10, “For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.”

In other words: When you start believing that you belong in God’s presence, then you re-open pathways to your unconditioned soul, and you begin to see your essence again which helps you begin to claim the deep truth that you are redeemable. You can return. You can be saved.

You just have to go back to the start. Everyone can go back to the start.

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The Rev. Barrett Owen, pastor of First Baptist Waynesboro in Waynesboro, is a columnist for The News Virginian.

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