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Saturday, August 9, 2014

I'm Feeling and I Can't Get Up!

Today I'm putting on my therapist hat. You know, the one that I have no training or authority to wear? That being said, I will rock this hat like Dudley Do-Right Pharrell Williams. 

Fake it 'til you make it, right?

Let's talk about feelings. My feelings. And maybe yours, too. Maybe I'm not the only one who feels things. 

Am I alone? I don't think so. Actually, I can say with complete certainty that there are other people who feel things. This is because one of said people lives in my home.

My almost-7-year-old daughter. The feelings. Oy Vey.

I have said, often with sincere concern, since she was 18 months old that the time of the weeping womb is upon her. Sometimes I honestly think Aunt Flow is coming to visit at age six due to the indescribable emotions that seep from her very core.

Don't get me wrong; she is a delightful human being. But when she feels...well, she feels.

I remember one incident when she was around four years old. She and her brother were together and, as usual, they were playing well...until they weren't. My son ran in to find me, weeping because his sister had pushed him down. Now, in our house, using your hands to hurt someone else is an automatic trip to the penalty box, so naturally I found my (unrepentant) daughter and asked her to go sit on her bed for five minutes and think about the way she treated her brother, and how she should do it differently next time. Off she ran to her room, and what followed was nothing short of an Oscar-worthy performance.

First I heard the weeping. The wailing. It started quietly but the volume steadily rose in order, no doubt, to gain my attention. And that it did. How could it not? I think the neighbors at the end of the cul-de-sac could probably hear it.

Next came the self-depricating remarks. 

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Why am I so naughty? Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!" 
"MommyMommyMommyMommyMommyMommyMommyMommy, I am so unkiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnddddddddddd!" 
"Ooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I am the baddest person in this familyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!"

I wish I was making this up. Truly I do. But, no.

Next came my favorite, the most creative, part. The songwriting. She lay in her bed writing a song, stream-of-consciousness-style. And It. Was. Amazing.

"Whyyyyyyyyyy...does nobody looooooooove me? Whyyyyyyyyyy...does nobody caaaaaaaare for me? Whyyyyyyyyyy...does nobody want me in their faaaaamily? Whyyyyyyyyyy?"
"Emerson, I loooooooooove you. I think you're greaaaaaaaaaat and so kiiiiiiiiiiiiiind. I am GODDDDDDDDDD!" 

At least she ended on a positive note, I guess.

This example is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, to be sure. The emotions definitely flow freely with that chick, and while it can be entertaining and even frustrating at times, there is something appealing about watching her feel things. 

There can be a problem, though, with feelings. It's way too easy for us to allow our feelings to color our perceived realities; in other words, I feel it therefore it must be true. 

See the example above about my daughter: she was disciplined (fairly and in love) and she allowed her feelings to distort reality. Did we no longer love her or care for her or want her in our family because she shoved her little brother? Absolutely not. However, in those moments her feelings overtook what she knew to be true and she allowed the lies of the enemy to rule her mind.

Oftentimes, feelings do not represent reality. 

It's a lot like this with me and God. When things are good and I feel positive emotions, I believe that he loves me and has my best interest in mind. "Thank you, Lord, for your blessings," and, "you are faithful and good," and things of that nature.

It's when life gets stormy that the doubt starts to creep in, and in the storms the worst thing I can do is to trust my feelings.

Can I get a witness?

Does this mean that expressing our feelings, that the act of feeling, is bad? I don't think so. I just think it means that we can't allow our feelings to dictate what is truth and what is not.

All of us feel. A lot. The question is, how do we reconcile our feelings with our faith in God's sovereignty and bigger plan? How do we learn to trust that he has our best interest in mind when it feels like he is absent, that he just doesn't care?

I think the answer is simple: TRUTH TRUMPS FEELINGS. Every single time.

God's Word mentions "truth" over 230 times. We know this is not by accident. I believe it's because sometimes I am so dense that God needs to repeat himself countless times to make sure I get what he's saying.

He knows our feelings will come and threaten to rule us; he knows that we are easily swayed. This is why he has given his Spirit of truth to each and every one of his children. I love the words that Jesus spoke, recorded in the book of John, because he knew that, although he was going away, God was going to leave us a guide and protector.
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. -- John 16:12-14
We must continually measure our feelings against God's truth, and he has given us the Spirit of truth and his Word as fantastic litmus tests. If our emotions can't stand up against the truth of who he is, we must choose to replace our feelings, the lies, with his truth. Easier said than done, I know, but it's something to strive for, isn't it?

Over the last several days, my extended family has experienced a handful of hardships. My cousin (age 31) was rushed into emergency surgery due to kidney malfunction. Another cousin (age 19) was in a horrific water-skiing accident, resulting in a broken back and fractured skull. It's amazing that he's alive, honestly. Yet another cousin (age 22) was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This all involves people on the same side of my family. I'm not going to lie - it's been a lot to process. There have been a lot of feelings welling up in me. 

There have been moments when I've been tempted to question God's goodness and faithfulness, his ability to handle all that is going on in the life of my family. There have been times when I've been close to allowing fear to consume me, to thinking that maybe he's absent or not who he claims to be. There have been times when I haven't felt like he is near, times when I haven't felt confident in his sovereignty. 

Thank goodness I don't rely on my feelings. 

John Piper says it so much better than I do:

“My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes - many times - my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens - and it happens every day in some measure - I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.”  -- John Piper

Here's to pleading with God: purify our perceptions of your truth and transform our feelings so that they are in sync with the truth!


And always remember, your heavenly Father understands. And so does Ron Burgundy. 

Feel free to laugh!