Sunday, April 19, 2009

"You can't run away from your feelings!"

Once I got a coaster for being part of a wedding. It said, "Wherever you go, go with all your heart." I really disdained it. Your heart will mislead you everytime, I thought. A fool follows his heart and ends up ruined.

Feelings can be scary. My feelings have gotten me in trouble all too often. I don’t trust them very much. They’ve led me in the wrong direction more than once.

But I can’t resist or deny the idea that God shows up in very emotional ways in the Bible. He’s angry and loving. He grieves about things and hates things. He’s jealous and joyful. God’s an emotional being, take it or leave it.

It’s hard to get a clear understanding of how God could be emotional. I don’t trust emotions much, but they’re part of who God is. I feel a lot of ugly emotions, but God is righteous and good. Feelings seem like a paradox between my experience and God’s personality.

The reason I’m thinking about this is that I just finished Feeling Like God. I wanted to give it a quick read because it’s an area of interest of mine, so I wanted to see what Chris Tiegreen had to say. This was the problem he was trying to resolve. We have a high level of trust in rational thinking and enlightened reason, and our emotions are just sort of a scatterplot graph of BB gun shots. We’re happy if our emotions make it on the graph.

There was some good stuff in the book. If you don’t mind I’ll share just a couple thoughts that relate here.

First, we tend to trust our reason much more than we trust our emotions. Is this right and good? Tiegreen asks, How many times have you been wrong about something you remembered, concluded, or believed? Plenty, right?

“What’s our response when this happens? We certainly don’t lament the unreliability of human reason and decide that it should never become the basis for our decisions.” No, “we press ahead in our quest for knowledge.” The same should be true, Tiegreen says, in how we treat our emotional dimension, “acknowledge its fallibility and continue to develop it as a powerful asset.” Haven’t emotions carried us to do courageous things, risk amazing triumphs, build beautiful new paths? Why does love have reasons that reason does not know? “Why,” asks Tiegreen, “do we decide that the flaws outweigh the useful benefits?”

I think he makes a good point here. Believing that our emotions are more prone to failure than our thoughts, that our minds are more susceptible than our hearts, simply doesn’t make sense. Both are broken by sin, redeemable by God. We need to use both humbly, but we need to nurture both to thrive and grow and guide us as we seek to be more like God.

1 comment:

Bryan and Meggan said...

One of my favorite profs at school (Andy Snider of Theology Is Life) did a dissertation on the subject of God's immutability vs. mutability (I believe he has plans to publish a book on the topic in the future).

One thing I've appreciated in his thoughts on the subject is the need to allow God to have emotions. In other words, when the Bible says God experienced some type of emotion, don't belittle it as being figurative or anything of the like. Instead, take it for face value. When it says that God experienced joy, he experienced joy. When it says God experienced anger, he experienced anger, and so on.

We too often try to put God in a westernized-hellenized framework when God is not boxed-shaped.