But not too much.
Peace like a river? – thank-you, but half a cup is quite sufficient.
Joy like a fountain? – steady on. A little – excessive, don’t you think?
On the emotional front, I’m not the healthiest. All this stuff about women processing better and being in touch with their feelings. Well, not this one. This woman heads into her cave at the first opportunity. Someone asks ‘what’s wrong?’ and I have to consult the emoticons on my phone to move beyond ‘fine’. (Though it’s a step better than ‘fat’ which is actually a Feeling Cork and a very bad one at that).
How do feelings sit with faith? It seems to me like there’s two approaches:
1. The Barbara Cartland. I’m the heroine and Grand Emotions sweep me into their big strong arms and carry me away. Stuff the rest of you: I’m hurting and nothing else matters.
2. The so-called ‘christian’ Dalek. Programmed to Obey. An emotion exterminator, committed to level ground.
Give in to your feelings. Or squash ’em. Funnily enough, you can even do both.
When my brain’s feeling battered, all I want is a nice DVD and a glass of red wine. Sometimes it works – and sometimes it doesn’t. But either way, it’s a temporary fix.
The last thing I want is to look at the Bible. I feel like I should. But I’m sad and I don’t want to be preached at. So I make excuses. I escape from the deafening silence – to cafes and cinemas and computers and work.
Thing is, Scripture is the only thing that doesn’t distract from or minimise or inflate all my fears. It speaks to them and it speaks to me. It understands.It challenges and it reveals. It stings – and it heals.
Faith isn’t a series of conundrums or ethical hoops. It includes our feelings – but it’s not enslaved to them. Faith is in a Person: Jesus, who felt and wept and obeyed and poured Himself out, even when He was empty.
In Matthew 14, He’s been teaching and healing and preaching and He’s exhausted. He gets a terrible piece of news: his cousin, John, has been beheaded, on the whim of a drunken king. Jesus goes to retreat; but the crowds press in on Him. He’s empty; but they demand to be fed. Jesus would have been quite within his rights, to have claimed some me-time. Or huffily, to produce the goods. But He doesn’t retreat behind stoicism or self-pity. His heart is moved for the same crowds that will kill him. He feels: and He gives.
It’s okay to have feelings. It’s okay to have wants:
– for a job
– for a clean bill of health
– for a husband or wife
– for the person you’ve lost
– for healing and meaning and arms that won’t let you go.
But the yearning’s not the end.
We take our emptiness to the Lord – and He fills us with Himself.