Friday, February 23, 2007

Feelings: an expanding understanding...

All my life I thought feelings were something that happened to you because of the circumstances around you. Until a few years ago when our pastor's wife taught us a very simple concept. Instead of circumstances (A) equalling feelings (C), it's actually circumstances (A) plus our belief about those circumstances (B) that equals our feelings (C). So instead of looking like this A=C, the equation is really A+B=C.

For instance, when that family lost their 5 children in a car accident a while back, most people in that same situation would have been devestated to the point of not wanting to continue living. But because of their strong faith and belief that God is always good and that He brings good out of every situation that He allows, they made it through that time without being completely devestated. They were sad and grieving, of course, but they were still able to love and forgive and find deep and abiding joy and peace.

Not long after learning about the A+B=C equation, God revealed something else to me that's very important and was life-changing for me. The fact is, we are responsible for our own feelings. Our feelings do not control us, and the people around us do not control our feelings. In most circumstances, we are free to choose our own feelings. This helped me out a lot in my marriage. Whenever I would feel hurt, angry or frustrated, I would remember that I didn't have to feel those things if I didn't want to, and many times just reminding myself of that caused the negative emotion to dissipate or cease completely.

However, it wasn't long afterwards that God showed me how important unpleasant emotions can be. Anger and frustration can and should motivate us to seek needed and healthy changes in circumstances and relationships.

One day not too long ago my dad was venting about something that happens quite commonly in our culture. I think it had something to do with people nosing around in his business at the grocery store, asking questions that he felt they had no business asking. He was very irritated about it even though it had happened weeks earlier, and I asked him why he was wasting energy being irritated about something he couldn't change. I told him my belief that we control our own emotions, and the people and circumstances around us can't control our emotions unless we allow them to.

In response, he said something like, "If that's what you believe, then you've just said that you can treat people anyway you want to, because it's their own responsibility how they feel." I had never thought about it that way before, but the discussion helped me realize that even though I believe people are responsible for their own feelings and attitudes, there are an awful lot of people out there who don't believe it. So I said and I believe that even though we are responsible for our own feelings, it's important for us to try to treat people as though we were responsible for theirs. At least, that's what I try to do.

I know that God will bring greater and deeper revelation about this topic into my life, but until then, I wanted to chronicle this learnig process so far.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What God is teaching me right now, is that when He works through us, it requires very little straining on our part. I find when I’m “trying” to reach people for Christ, by “sharing” the gospel, or recommending Christian music, books, or movies, or by sharing “Christian” stories in strategic locations hoping that someone nearby was eavesdropping (does anyone else ever do these things?), it almost always backfires or falls to the ground with a dull thud. The times when God has worked through me in the lives of others have been time when I wasn’t “trying” to do anything. I was just being me, doing what God created me to do, and being who He created me to be at that time, in that place, and in that season. It was natural, it was easy, it wasn’t hard or painful, and I wasn’t afraid. No wonder Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light.