I’m not terribly well-versed with classic rock, but for some reason the words ‘more than feeling‘ have been stuck in my head. I’ve talked a lot about how Christianity has issues with emotions, how Christianity pressures people to show certain emotions, and how other emotions are viewed as unacceptable. As much as I often end up on the pro-emotion side, every now and then I’m not sure that I feel much of anything. Lately it’s been a major battle against writer’s block. I’m just not feeling inspired. At this point some who are anti-emotion would likely point out that just because I don’t feel God’s inspiration or presence it doesn’t mean that he’s given up on me and that’s proof enough that I shouldn’t put so much emphasis on emotion.
Then I think about what I learned about leprosy; how it deadened the body’s pain receptors so that people didn’t know they had been hurt because they couldn’t feel it. They didn’t know they needed to clean and dress a wound because they couldn’t feel it. They didn’t know that infection had set in because they couldn’t feel it. Not being able to feel slowly and surely was detrimental to their physical and spiritual health. For those who are anti-emotion, they choose to train themselves to avoid their emotions, they teach themselves not to feel and remind themselves never to trust what they do feel. That’s just how I used to be but it created more problems than it solved.
For one, I didn’t seem to find much Biblical justification for our general mistrust of emotions in Scripture. Jesus seemed to be freely emotional crying at the death of a friend or being angry that another was in his way or being the life of the party or having compassion at the plight of others, etc. Paul was pure passion – completely against the early church and then completely for the early church. Each of the disciples had different personalities that shined through the gospels – from doubt to pride to devotion and betrayal. When I stopped reading the Scriptures as if they were a black and white story, I began to see how emotion colors everything from the words the people in the stories say, the actions the people in the stories take, and how they lived life. I think they’d be among the first to look at modern Christianity and shake their heads in disappointment at how wrong we’ve gone with our quest to deny our emotions.
I know, emotions can lead us astray. Being angry gets us into all kinds of trouble. Being sad can get us lost in a deep fog. Being scared is even worse because the Bible says over and over again not to be afraid. If we let our emotions run the show, we wouldn’t much different from little children who haven’t learned how to restrain their emotions. And yet, we are all God’s children. Shouldn’t that mean that we should be somewhat freer with our emotions that we would have been otherwise? Emotions can’t be that bad of a thing – they’re part of being human.
I struggle with intentionality. I always have. Let’s say I feel like reading a book. I can devour it in three days. But when I don’t feel like reading a book – even if it’s half the size – I’ll drag my feet for weeks and maybe get through a page or two every other month. Let’s say I feel like blogging. Day after day I can write new posts. But when I don’t feel like blogging, I struggle to come up with something, anything to say. I struggle the same way with my faith. I can be all about God, or I won’t feel quite up to it and I’ll find something else to occupy my time. I know that believing in God is more than a feeling, but I have feelings that need to feel something, or else, why have them at all?
Maybe it’s just this disappointment with the Church; in a world where we should be above worldliness, too many Christian leaders are corrupt, too many protect the guilty and throw the innocent under the bus, too many lie or cheat or steal, too many take a page out of a business magazine and too few take a page out of the Bible. But there’s also the problems in the system – like trying to justify our failure to help the poor because that’s entitlement or if we fix famine and prevent hunger, it won’t be around like the Bible says it will at the end times and if it’s one thing Christians are looking forward to, it’s the end times. Why would we want to throw a wrench into God’s plans to destroy the whole world? Shouldn’t we feel bothered that we don’t mind world hunger or war or people dying of preventable causes because we’re hoping that we’ll be Raptured before God systematically wipes out the remaining population in a series of judgements that render the Ten Plagues of Egypt to be gentle in comparison? Why am I not okay with that now and why was I okay with that when I was younger?
And yet here I am struggling with the concept of being intentional. I could intend on reading the Bible through, but I know I wouldn’t make it. I could intend on studying a particular branch of theology and get myself confused before I make any amount of headway. Then I know that there are times that I can’t get enough of studying Scripture, but I know it doesn’t last. Sooner or later it fades.
All the while, those who are against emotion warn me of false positives, losing interest in the Gospel and therefore loving God less. I think they don’t understand that they days that are “downs” don’t last either. It won’t be long before I’m on the other side, up in the light, surrounded by the warmth of love and back in the zone. It sustains even when I’m back in the lows, knowing that it doesn’t last. Darkness is always defeated by the light. So I don’t worry about intentionality – it’s beyond me. But God, on the other hand, is intentional about his love for all of us whether or not we perceive him and that’s enough for me.