Summary: So oftentimes, emotions function like the lights on our dashboard. When the engine light comes on, something needs to be paid attention to.
Today I want to talk about our emotional life. Maybe this is an area for you that seems out-of-control for you. Or perhaps the opposite: you feel a bit dead, almost feeling-less. Recently Time magazine even ran an article about how to handle your emotions during tough economic times.
I’m living in a very emotional home right now: we have a wedding coming up at the end of May. It’s very emotional. My wife’s been crying. My daughter’s been crying. And when I think about the cost, I start crying.
Emotions are tricky animals. Most guys are skittish about displaying emotions other than anger or excitement. Expressing fear or weepiness is viewed as a weakness. We tend to downplay emotions that are stereotyped as “feminine.”
Women, if you really corner us, we don’t understand your type of emotions. We don’t understand you wanting to be empathized with instead of letting us fix things and fix you. I thought it was hilarious when Coldplay did the song “Fix You”—“When tears come streaming down your face…I’ll try to fix you.” Only a guy would write that. We don’t understand what is faintly interesting about a movie like “Twenty Seven Dresses” or “The Women”. We don’t understand your emotional world. We don’t understand being happy in spending hours at The Gap. We don’t understand why it takes a support group to go to the restroom.
And on the other hand, we don’t understand how you can be passive during the Superbowl and only get engaged when the commercials come on.
I think that us guys have a predisposed distrust of emotions, except for the ones that help us to compete or allow us, we think, to get things done, to make things right…to fix things.
Now let me shift gears. When I first turned my life over to Jesus, early on I was taught this model…kind of “Christianity 101”. My life, my decisions, my Christianity was described like a little train: an engine, a coal car, and a caboose. The train represented Fact > Faith > Feeling.
Your decision to follow Jesus was based on The Fact that God loves you and gave His Son Jesus to die for your sins. That it was historical and factual was critical. The Fact is what pulls the train along. If that’s not true, then this all means nothing and the rest of these cars aren’t going anywhere.
Then next came Faith: your conscious decision to trust Jesus with your life and receive the gift of salvation. You chose to believe in The Fact…and as a result, you were reborn spiritually, you were grafted into the Life of God.
But the caboose was the Feeling—your emotions. It’s just tagging along here. The big fear was if you depended on your feelings, then what happens when you don’t “feel saved”? Because some of us had heard people say, “Wow. I just don’t feel what I first felt when I got baptized. I’ve lost that feeling. Guess it wasn’t really real.” We’d say, “Dismiss those feelings! Remember The Fact?—Remember the decision you made to believe? Don’t let your feelings drive the train!”
And while, yes, that was true, underneath that was a subliminal message that feelings can’t be trusted or at best, dismissed…which fits nicely with Western intellectual rational thinking; this whole thing is so…logical. And so we went to nice, tidy little churches where no one expressed any emotions, we sang our hymns, we smiled at each other, we heard a message about what we should stop doing, we went to our little Bible studies, and we went home…and that was our Christian experience. We went to The First Church of Spock.
Emotions are really important to understand because, remember, we are integrated people with one life. So oftentimes, emotions function like the lights on our dashboard. When the engine light comes on, something needs to be paid attention to. If the temperature warning light comes on, you better pull over fast. If the oil light blinks on, you only have a limited amount of time to fix it.
Likewise with our emotions. When anger pops up…or when depression creeps in…or when grief chokes us…we need to check under the hood and see why. It’s telling us something critical, something crucial. Checking under the hood means that we go below the surface to see what’s not functioning right. If we don’t, our relational life will take a dive. Our inner life is affected. Our physical life can be stressed because of our emotions.
Or it may be that an emotional light that’s blinking is telling us that something's wrong physiologically or chemically with us. It’s telling us to look under the surface: the anger issue is not the real problem anymore than the blinking dashboard light is the real problem. If we don’t look under the surface, our emotions can wreck our relationships, our faith and our one life.