Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dealing with Feelings

How often the Pslamist questions his own soul.

"Why so downcast, Soul?" he asks.

The psalmist is engaging in Spiritual Formation, that long and arduous process of taming the soul. The psalmist doesn't ignore feelings or explain them away. The psalmist is not rationalizing emotions, but attending to them for the hope of tranformation. The psalmist is being made into the likeness of Christ, and emotions play a role.

What? Wait a minute...aren't emotions suspect? They can't be trusted. They lag along as the caboose of the train--it's facts that fuel the engine of faith. At least that's what the tract taught me.

But the psalmist disagrees. The Psalms are laden with emotion, full of desire, anger, joy, disappointment, fear, doubt, and love. Passionate, crazy love. These emotions are given voice, processed, analyzed, and incorporated into the spiritual journey.

Reason and logic came to rule in the time of the great Greek philosophers, and in some ways, they are still ruling today. Believers have bought into these ideas to the point where emotions are no longer allowed to do their work in us, and this, my friends, is a shame.

Sure, emotions must be redeemed through the faith journey--they are far from pure and holy in our broken and fallen state. But neither are our thoughts, reasonings, or knowledge pure and holy apart from God.

Like the psalmist, I am learning to address my emotions, to invite them into the conversation, to ask God to shine His light on them and refine them in His fire, that they, too, might be subject to His rule and useful to His Kingdom.

"Why so downcast, Soul?"

When I am sad, I listen to my soul. Sometimes the sadness reveals an inordinate attachment, a misaligned love, or a selfish longing. I give those to God, and He helps me to reorder my affections. But sometimes the sadness reveals a holy longing, a divine grief, or a righteous desire. I give those to God, too, and He helps me to move forward in faith.

"Why so happy, Soul?"

When I am happy, I  also need to listen to my soul. Sometimes the happiness reveals an inordinate attachment, a misaligned love, or a selfish longing. I give those to God and He helps me to reorder my affections. But sometimes the happiness reveals a satisfaction in Christ, a celebration of beauty, a righteous longing fulfilled. I give those to God, too, and He helps me to move forward in faith.

The thing is, if these emotions are left unexamined, they can become destructive rather than constructive. Not all positive emotions are good, and not all negative emotions are bad. Discernment is critical to the process.

One thing I've noticed since I started paying more attention to my emotions, is that Jesus was often led by his emotions. More often than anything, Jesus is moved to heal or to help by compassion. Not reason. Not justice. Compassion. The only holy, perfect human was led by holy and perfect emotions. As we become more like him, might we also be able to let emotions have a greater bearing on how we live, on what we say, and on what we do?

I think that we live in a time when we NEED to feel more. And I think that until the church learns to let spirituality infuse reason and emotion, we will not be able to love and care for each other as God intended. We were made in the image of a passionate God. I want to be a person who rightly reflects His passions.

1 comment:

  1. c'est totalement vrai, et ça me parle bcp ! Merci Jenn :)

    ReplyDelete

 
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