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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Blaming Emotions

I'd like to address this issue of maligning emotions - as if they are inherently bad.  "But you were emotional when you responded!"  Sounds like an accusation or something.  I wish we could get over this concept that emotions are wrong.  That we must float through life robotic-like - oh, no, not really - with plastic smiles plastered across our from-here-on-out robotic affect.

I wrote a bit about this in a previous post (Two lies that burn holes in relationships), and received some feedback from an insightful relative.  I asked her permission to post her thoughts here as I thought they warranted a broader audience.  She says it better, and with more credibility than I could!

Thank you so much for your helpful insights, and good observations about those two lie-beliefs regarding emotions! I've been fascinated with the topic of emotions and feelings for a LONG time. Here are just a few brief comments, on a few random observations that seem true to me, about emotions. I would love to hear your honest feed back about them. I didn't know if you'd want them posted as a comment to your post, so, here they are. People often react against emotions, feelings, or tears. Perhaps that is because our own and another person's emotions are not at all easy to figure out. Emotions seem to be very connected to our hearts. We often find it very difficult to figure out, then explain clearly or accurately what we are feeling and why. We are often oblivious to the many things that are going on in our hearts, and we often do not know the REAL reasons why we are feeling what we are feeling emotional about... It gets confusing, to say the least. I've often heard people say things like, "Don't believe your feelings, or your emotions." And, yet it doesn't seem to be our emotions that we are usually believing. Emotions are just emotions, not beliefs. It is the lie-belief that is causing the emotion, that I should not believe... Emotions are a gift from God. Designed by Him, for His very good purposes. One benefit they provide is, our emotions alert us to the fact that there is some kind of problem that needs our attention, our help. E.g. Sometimes someone IS being sinned against, and they need to ask the person to stop sinning against them. If the person won't listen/repent, Jesus instructed us to, take 1 or 2 other people with us, etc. Yes, God's Word does speak of overlooking a matter, also. Rather than just try to ignore the emotions, or stuff them, it seems good to let your emotions, or the other person's emotions, alert you to take that pain to our Father in Heaven, asking Him for His perspective on it. Asking Him for wisdom to know what the REAL cause is, and what to do about that. If the pain SEEMS to come from another person's sinful, self-absorbed, unkind behavior, talk to God about it. He wants and welcomes us to take EVERYTHING to Him with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving... He welcomes us to "pour out your heart before Him." We can ask Him for wisdom and discernment to know, whether this is something He just wants me to learn from, and what He wants me to learn. Or, whether He wants me to love them enough to help them recognize and turn from that sinful, self-absorbed behavior. Considering, for example, the fact that they may well hurt, offend, damage other people by sinning against them in that same way, also... Sometimes a person's emotions reveal that they are believing a lie. We, or they need to be set free, by discovering the truth that will set us/them free. It seems like a sincere love for them, would want to choose to help them, discover just what that lie is, and helping them find the truth that will set them free. Or, genuine love for them, would want to help them discover Jesus' ways of responding to being sinned against... Which includes, but is not limited to forgiving the person whose sinful, self-absorbed ways, have caused me much pain. The pain that comes with being sinned against, as well as the pain that comes with not experiencing anyone who cares about that pain, can become fertile ground for many a very destructive lie-belief to get planted deeply in people's hearts... It's fascinating and sobering to think about the FACT that we do NOT experience the other person's pain, and they do not experience ours. We only have their emotions, or facial expressions, that give us clues to the fact that they ARE feeling something... Many of the ways that we respond, or react to other people's emotions, effectively program them to hide their hearts from us, for fear of us treating them that way again... this hiding of our hearts, ruins relationships, and can even cause people to believe that not even God cares about how they are feeling. A very dangerous lie-belief, that causes people to make very destructive decisions, as they walk away from God, and from the people who "prove" that they don't care, by the way they treated that person. Depending on how we respond, or react, we often cause people to clam-up, hide their hearts from us, even lock up their hearts, believing the lie, that no one will ever care about the hurt that I am feeling! Responding wrongly to a person's emotions, often prevents us from being able to effectively helping them. Caring about another person's emotions, respecting their emotions, and the fact that something has caused them pain, is something that many people long to experience, but many never have...

- Elaine Ferguson

Anger in Parenting...strikes again

So last night there was this episode:

We don't normally have drinks other than water.  But I decided to have a special juice mix and went to find a carton of peach nectar I had stashed in the fridge downstairs.  It had been there a month or so, unopened - chilling for the right moment.  And now it had come.  I open it.  *Gasp* It had been opened!  I smelled it.  Fermented.  Yuck.

Scene 2:  I call a particular child who is known to take liberties.  Did you open it?  Yes.  How long ago?  A while ago.  Do you know it is now ruined?  Yes.  What are the rules about this sort of thing?  Why didn't you ask me first?  Why didn't you tell me?

I expressed my honest frustration and exasperation at that moment.  I didn't, in fact, YELL.  I told him how disappointed I was that now it is wasted all on account of his failure to obey the rules.  I went on for a few minutes.  He slumped and mumbled a weak (and lame) 'sorry.'

Scene 3:  Supper is on and he doesn't eat.  He sulks.  He endures supper.  All evening he is glum.

Scene 4:  I come under attack from the other parental unit for my 'anger'.  How it is inappropriate.  How he has now spiralled downward the whole evening.  How all the books say anger is bad in parenting.  How we had sometime ago met with another couple to hash this out - this disagreement of ours - that anger is either appropriate at times or never appropriate in parenting.  And how, in his mind, I had 'agreed' that anger is wrong in parenting.  (I don't remember it being that nicely finalized!)

At this point, my anger - probably very sinful and wrong at this point - was deeply kindled.  The evening was over.  I was fuming.

So I toss it out to the broader public for your honest input.

We have an ongoing disagreement: I believe anger in justified, though not loss of self-control, at times in parenting.  That when children continue to willfully disobey, they should know that there are harmful repercussions from such actions.

The other parental unit believes that anger is not okay.  That it is hurtful.  I agree about the hurtful part.  I'm just not convinced on the 'harmful' part.  A lot of things hurt that are good for us.

Thanks for letting me get this bee partly out of my bonnet.  It's a hornet's nest in there.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Situational Contentment and CCD

I hear the term 'situational ethics' thrown around with scoffing tones.  And I'm sure there's good reason for this.  But I'd like to highlight something that is far more common, more subtle and more agreeable to our collective palates.  Situational Contentment.  That contentment, shalom, peaceful calm, serenity, blissful reverie that finds it's joy in the situation at hand.  I don't want to knock it - no, we can rightly enjoy the stuff of life - money, houses, land, nice weather, vacations, health, well-being, relational harmony - because they simply ARE enjoyable.  The problem comes when we can only be content if these things are all fine and dandy.  When we can define each area of our lives with glowing, gushing, delightful phrases that make people wonder if we live the realm of normal.

Today I read Psalm 16.  Let's go through it together, shall we?  (It's the cure for the common contentment disorder.  Otherwise known as CCD, it is known to strike the most robustly healthy of individuals who struggle to source their joy on the True Joy Giver).  I, too, struggle with CCD.

16:1 Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.

Stop right there.  It says 'In You.'  Notice what it doesn't say: In my bank account.  In my friends.  In my status.  In my reputation.  In my family.  In my health.  In my own strength.  No - we take refuge in GOD.  Not in the stuff of life.  Money troubles can beset us.  Friends can let us down.  Family can be a pain in the neck.  Health can suffer a blow through no fault of our own.  My own strength and ability to control things in life can be hindered.  None of these things can be the source of our security, refuge or hope.  Only God can do that.

16:2 I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You."

What is a 'Lord'?  It is one who rules, who is sovereign, who has the right to authority.  If I say to God, 'You are my Lord,' I am declaring that I willingly submit to His rule.  That's a hard prayer to pray.  I dare you to.
As for that second line: 'no good apart from You.'  Can you say that and mean it?  Here David is saying basically that the stuff of his life is nothing.  Apart from God everything else is just stuff.  I take no value in my ministry, accolades, giftedness, knowledge, abilities, wisdom.  These are all temporary.  God is not.  Let's be sure to value Him more than all else.

16:3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones , in whom is all my delight.

Since God is our everything we will naturally gravitate towards those who share the same sentiment about God - those who value Him above all else!

16:4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
16:5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.

I will trust God to give what He deems that I need.  Note that I said 'what HE DEEMS I NEED.'  Sometimes our list of what we think we need is not on God's list for us.  Part of trusting Him means we look to Him to tell us what we need rather than us just going to Him and saying, "By the way, I NEED  fully outfitted brand new ___________"  (car, cellphone, house, wardrobe, etc).  Submitting to Him as Lord means we also submit to HIS ideas of what we truly need.  That said, in His grace He often even gives us above and beyond our needs and provides our wants.  Such grace!

16:6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

The language of 'portion' 'lot' and 'inheritance' speaks to the financial realm (maybe indirectly).  These indicate he is thinking of physical provisions.  The amazing thing is that the psalmist has already told us what his inheritance is: God.  God is my inheritance.  He is beautiful.  God tells Abraham, "I am your very great reward."  Would you rather have Jesus than silver or gold?  Would you rather have Him than have riches untold?
You have a beautiful inheritance.  Far greater than wealth, houses or land.

16:7 I bless the Lord Who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Sometimes I'm prone to think others are my source of counsel - and Proverbs does commend this.  However, there is a place for simply receiving counsel from the Lord and even the ponderings of our Spirit-filled hearts.  When God lives within us by His Spirit, even the thoughts of our hearts can counsel us (unless our thoughts direct us to something against what Scripture teaches).

16:8  I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

What is 'shaken'?  In my mind it relates to anxiety, fear, worry, stress.  All of these are things that have tripped me up - often.  When I find CCD (Common Contentment Disorder) striking I start to WAF.  WAFfing is my acronym for Worry Anxiety and Fear.  Often CCD and WAFfing go together.  Why am I shaken?  Probably because I haven't set the Lord always before me.  How could I WAF when I have my eyes set on the King of Kings?  How could I shudder with anxiety when HE owns the cattle on a thousand hills?  Are you shaken these days?  Set the Lord (the sovereign, rightful ruler of your life) always before You - recognize He is near (at your right hand even!) and you will not be shaken!  This is not a formula.  It is a habit of the heart.

16:9  Therefore, my heart is GLAD! and my whole being REJOICES! my flesh also dwells SECURE!

Why does he reference 'flesh'?  Go back to material provisions!  He isn't saying this is just some great spiritual exercise - this thing of putting God before us!  He is saying there are actual physical benefits to this choosing-God-as-my-portion.  When he says 'whole being' do you think he means 'just my inner spirit.'??  Noooo...  Every part of him rejoices because He is filled to overflowing with joy because God is all he needs.  Do you sense your need of God that much?  When we sense our need for Him, and realize He has met this need, and goes on meeting it, we have joy in our whole being.
This is the antidote to anxiety.

16:10  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

The psalmist is confident in God's faithful sustaining presence even through the end of his life - all the way to the grave and beyond.  What hope!  What assurance!

16:11  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy;
               At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Knowing how to live when our situation is glum, difficult, mediocre, sad, frustrating, or hopeless seems to be a challenge.  Who teaches us the path of life?  Who gives us fullness of joy?  The Psalmist is confident in God shepherding him through life.  God is the source of joy.  God's presence is the fountain of life.

Take a look at Psalm 16 and tell me if it isn't the cure for CCD and WAF.

I dare you to try.