Monday, July 27, 2015

Emotions: A pathway into the presence of God by special guest writer A.M. Nelson

Angela Nelson and I attended college together....which means we met 25 years ago! She is an excellent writer and you can find her blogging HERE and also find her book, We Are All Prodigals HERE, I am honored to share this space with her today...

There have been several posts about depression on this blog and this has caused me to think about how sometimes it is right to feel sad. Some things in life are just sad, and it would be un-human not to feel sadness over them. We should give ourselves time and space to feel sadness. And anger. And disappointment. And all the other negative emotions we try to suppress and ignore, as if denying their existence will make them go away. 

It doesn't do any good to pretend we are not feeling what we are actually feeling. The emotions stay inside, and maybe become blown out of proportion or twisted into something corrupted because they are never exposed to the healing light of God.

When we allow our "negative" feelings to grow and swell (eventually) into mature thought, we allow God to deliver and redeem us. This can be a scary process. Most people have dark places in their souls that they are afraid to enter. And yet God promises that He will never overwhelm us, but will enable us to stand. And I have found this promise to be true.

Jesus shares our burdens, and even more, He opens his heart to us, so that we can share--only a very tiny amount I am sure--in His emotions and thoughts as well. Which is absolutely incredible. And the feeling of being united with Christ in this way is full and sweet and comforting beyond anything I can describe.

So why are we so afraid of our emotions, if this is the place to which they lead? And why do we deem some emotions acceptable, and others not? 

In reality there is no such thing as "good" or "bad" emotions. Emotions simply are. The choices and actions that result from our emotions can be good or bad, but the emotion itself is simply human. It means that we are not a machine.

Emotions are inconvenient. We hear about a tragedy on the news while driving a car. We begin to feel sadness, but quickly shut it down because we are heading to the grocery store or to an appointment, or maybe we have kids in the car who would see. Why not turn the radio off, feel what we feel for a few minutes, maybe even cry a little and pray for those involved? Join our hearts with God's and receive his insight, comfort and truth? Sometimes we do not have time to do even this, but other times we do.

Emotions make us feel vulnerable, open to being hurt. If we let our true emotions show, we might be rejected or ridiculed. In fact sometimes we definitely will be. But God will not reject us, and His is the opinion that matters.

Jesus came into our world and shared in the full range of our humanness. The "good" emotions as well as the "bad." He wept openly when he was sad, expressed frustration when the disciples were slow to understand, and pleasure when others did understand. I imagine an open and unguarded face was as rare and different in his day as it is in ours.

Being unafraid to feel your true emotions is one way to live in the presence of God. Not just at church or in Bible study, but while vacuuming or holding a fussy baby or right smack in the middle of an office meeting. When we live wholeheartedly, we can reliably turn to the presence of God because we are no longer holding him at bay. We do not have to be afraid of the dark, scary places in our souls because we have already been there and back, with him. 

It is not easy to live in this way. Most of the messages we receive, whether from our families growing up or our schools or our churches or our friends or whomever, teach us to present only the presentable to the outer world. But oh, the burdens we carry: The hidden, locked up emotions that fester and show up as compulsions and pains and addictions and etc.

To live wholeheartedly is to choose the narrow, difficult path, to swim upstream against an unremitting strong current. If it wasn't for the grace and help of God, I doubt we could do it at all.

But how rare and wonderful it is to meet someone who is lives wholeheartedly. Someone who lives unafraid of emotion, who has allowed Jesus into their deepest, darkest places so that those places are filled with grace, and that grace shines out from their eyes. And invites us in.

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