Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Walking the Line

I've been spending a lot of time recently talking about how to manage feelings - emotions. I have been coming up with long lists of ways to not feel, not acknowledge the truth of emotions, and just operate in this place of cool, collected, and calculated. And I'm exhausted. (Can I get an amen from anyone out there?)

You see, a lot of the stuff out there for Christian women to learn from has much to do with "not letting your emotions drive the bus" or "lead the train" or operate any other mode of transportation. I've even heard that I, as a woman, should I ever find someone to walk life with, need to somehow forget or ignore that I feel and manually adjust my communication so that it can translate for that guy. Now, I know how this sounds - there are a lot of "I"s in that last sentence, but bear with me for a second.

God created me. He knit me together. He formed me to respond to this world in a very specific way. I see through scripture that God has emotions. He feels and acts in those feelings. Jesus turns tables over in a temple, reaches out to a woman who is scorned by men around her, and he bends his knee in agony before he is crucified. There is color and beauty to the feelings he has - a rawness and even peacefulness in knowing that the one who commanded the stars into being appreciated their beauty.

The very emotions that cause me to get excited about the Lord in worship, appreciate the beauty of a sunny day, and bring tears to my eyes out of pain, are the same ones that I've been advised in different seasons of my life to lay down and ignore. It hasn't worked - in fact, it's probably worsened pressure and trauma in my life. I've been so eager to make my emotions "make sense" rather than just acknowledging that they are there, legitimate, and not always big enough to mandate a life change or even a small change.

I'd like to take it a step further. I believe that we should celebrate that we feel- and celebrate what we feel. Example. The classic story of a girl liking a guy. Let's pretend she's a pretty decent girl and he's got his stuff together.Typically what happens is the girl has some sort of emotional response to said guy and begins this process of analyzing her feelings, his actions, her actions, his words, her words, his thoughts, her thoughts, her breathing, his breathing, ad infinitum. She pictures him in different scenarios in her life - what he'd be like on a date, as a boyfriend, as a husband, as a father, with her family. And then her lunch break is over and she goes back to work - only to start the process again when he sends a text message about something they have to accomplish in the next week. But what if, instead of applying logic and analysis to the emotion - she just celebrated the fact that God has created her to respond to good things in a person. Because it's not bad for someone to appreciate and be attracted to someone who has qualities that are...worth appreciating. Does this mean she has to start something with him? Nope. But it does mean that she can rejoice in the emotions she has - and be free to be who she is.

Another example - one that I acted on. The other night, I was playing piano and singing with the worship team. I was legitimately excited about who God is, struck by His presence and just really pumped that He loves me. I couldn't stay seated, so I got up and moved around as I played piano. I had to - the emotion mandated a change - there was freedom to feel and act in that feeling. And the cool part is that I felt more like myself in that moment than I would have if I just stayed where I was.

That same joy and passion that makes me want to move around and dance for my Lord comes from the same place that responds to great people in my life, a beautiful sunrise, a man I respect.

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

So I wonder what would happen if we took the time to celebrate that and what we feel. Here's my hypothesis:

1) We'd be to identify WHY we are feeling what we are
2) We wouldn't be so anxious about the fact that we are feeling anything
3) We'd analyze a bit less
4) We'd praise Him a bit more
5) We'd love others better

What does it look like? Say that I get angry - so angry that I start crying. Before moving, acting, doing. I stop and praise Him for the fact that I'm alive and feeling something. I ask Him to show me truth in my feelings and I ask Him to help. And I breathe.  And all of this happens before I react. Crazy? Maybe. But it works so much better than the other option of "not letting my emotions play a role". They're meant to. They were created to. So I'm going to acknowledge that, celebrate that, and invite you to do the same. It is for freedom to live, breathe, and experience His life that He has set us free.

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