Lessons From Expert Feelers (Part 1): Take TIME.

7 04 2010

Three Requirements

Learning to feel is a gradual process that happens best in the context of relationships.  A blog can only take you so far (which is why my last post was titled, “Learn to feel from people who DO feel”).  But in my next 3 posts, I want to offer 3 things that I believe are requirements if we want to learn to really feel our emotions and become emotionally healthy.  In fact, all three of these things were illustrated in the documentary that I referenced in my last few posts.

The first requirement for feeling is time.

It takes time.  Feelings can not be rushed.  In my life, my goal when it comes to dealing with my emotions has often been to get past them as quickly as possible.  It’s like a part of me says, “Ok, I’m willing to think about this (sadness, anger, pain) – but only if that’ll make it stop sooner.”

But my heart will have none of it.  I’ve come to think that feeling your emotions just to “get it over with” is like trying to write a poem quickly: It defeats the whole purpose, and it will never come out right.  Writing (or reading) a poem, just like really feeling an emotion, requires a willing and deep entrance into the heart of something.  If you really want to read a poem, you have to look it in the eyes, invite it into your home, and sit down and have a meal and conversation with it.  You have to let it be finished with you when – and only when – it decides to be finished with you.

Your emotions are the same way.  Inside the heart of every one of us are unread poems, waiting for their turn to be heard.  It is no wonder that King David – whose emotional vibrancy and passion for God is unrivaled in the Bible – wrote poem after poem as he felt with and towards God.

In the documentary that I referenced in my last 3 posts, the willingness to take the time to feel was demonstrated very clearly.

When we (Americans) learn new things, we tend to want it in quick, easily digestible bullet points.  We want the information, and once we’ve comprehended it intellectually, we’re quick to move on to the next thing.  If a missionary was presenting the gospel to Americans for the first time, here’s how the conversation might go:

MISSIONARY: “So you see, all people are sinful, and without Christ, they are separated from God.”

AMERICAN: “Hm… I see your point.  Thanks for sharing that with me.  So, what’s the next point?”

But here’s how the conversation went with the tribal culture in the documentary:

MISSIONARY: “So you see, all people are sinful, and without Christ, they are separated from God.”

TRIBE: [Entire tribe breaks out into spontaneous weeping and grieving for their ancestors who died without Christ.  The exchange of information is put on hold – perhaps for hours – until the people have spent a significant period of time  embodying their grief.]

Something similar happens in the book of Job.  Great tragedy befell Job, including the death of all ten of his children in a single day.  If you’ve read the book of Job, you surely remember that his friends spent most of the book lecturing him and blaming him for the horrible things that happened to him – and were later rebuked by God for doing so.  But it’s easy to forget the stunning and beautiful show of empathy they offered Job before their lectures began:

“When Job’s three friends… heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2:11-13)

What about you?

So, what about you?  When an emotion starts to knock at your door, when you feel it stirring inside of you, do you shove it aside?  Do you say, “Hm, that’s nice.  But moving on…” – or do you give it time?

I have a challenge for you: Some time today (maybe right now!), or maybe some time tomorrow, when you’re in your car, rushing from one thing to the next, set aside three minutes – just three minutes! – to feel.  Just notice: “What am I feeling RIGHT NOW?”  First identify the emotion.  Then simply immerse yourself in it.

Maybe it’s sadness.  Maybe it’s anxiety or fear.  Maybe anger.  Maybe it’s peace, contentment, or joy.  (Shockingly, many people are even more reluctant to really engage with their joy than they are with their more painful emotions.)

If you’re a visual person, then think of it as if the emotion you’re dealing with is like a tub full of water.  In your mind, lower yourself down into it, letting it fill you and surround you.

After three minutes, take another minute to pray.  Talk to God about it.  If you’re confused, ask him why he created you to feel an emotion like this.  Thank him for it.  Thank him for creating you in His image, and for making your heart beautiful.




One response

10 04 2010

Thanks Tim 🙂 It’s been a while since I’ve read Job, and I don’t remember his friends mourning with him. I love it. And thanks for the tub of water visual. I like that too…

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