Monday, September 18, 2006

What Squeezes Out Of You When The Heat Is On?

Can you imagine your biggest failure being visible to almost 2 billion people and recorded for posterity?

How about Mel Gibson? I love Mel as an actor and his work, but it was painful hearing about his drunk driving charge, followed by Anti-Semitic remarks and anger directed at female police officers. Ouch!

We are created as emotional beings. Part of our journey and success in life rests in whether or not we process our emotions well. Processing our emotions well is the only way that we can become full-fledged followers of Jesus Christ because we are told to love others.

Jesus was emotive. John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” Do you recall him being angry when he cleared out the Temple area with a whip? What did God the Father say after Jesus was baptized? “Here is my son, in whom I am well pleased.” Is there any emotion in that? I see, hear and feel the savoring, the joy in the Father.

Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary tells the story of a person who came to him one day and said, with a hint of pride, "I've been through the Bible 15 times, Dr. Hendricks!" Hendricks' response was: "Wonderful! Now, how many times has the Bible been through you?"

That’s a great point- and it relates to our emotional life. Has the Bible, has the living word of God, gotten into your emotional life? That’s what this series is all about.

I want to ask you four questions to frame the rest of our time together:
What are you mad about?

What are you sad about?

What are you scared about today?

What are you glad about today?

These questions reveal a great deal about our respective emotional lives. I hope that you took the time to fill out the Emotional Maturity Inventory. There are still a few hard copies available, or download a hard copy for future use from a link on the blog.

Last week we looked at the ‘Y’. One path of the ‘Y’ could be that of a ‘knower’, and other that of a ‘learner’. Become a ‘lifer’, someone who looks forward to growing and changing each and every day until God calls us home. Risk it! If you can’t fill a simple survey out, what are you going to do when God asks you for something bigger? Or maybe it’s Him who’s asking you to fill out the survey? Just a thought…

Sheila Walsh, in her book Living Fearlessly, writes ( in a chapter titled, 'Confessions of a control freak') “I was in a locked ward with no control over anything. As far as I could know, my ministry, which was my identity, was gone. My years of hiding behind the image of a perfect Christian woman was over. My desperate need to be approved of by others in order to fell good about myself lay bleeding on the floor.” Do any of you resonate with Sheila’s words?

Being a control freak is all about wanting to play God. There are consequences of “Playing God.” Depression, anger, ulcers, burnout, take your pick.

God loves us based not on our performance, but on his performance at the cross. We no longer have to earn, or think we can get to god through sheer will or effort. We don’t have to perform, to self-promote, but just express what He’s already put inside of us.

Our ability to love others is an emotional issue.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing.

On Monday, of course, it was the 5th anniversary of 9/11. "When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love." Hugh Grant from the movie "Love Actually"

Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality. Listening to our emotions ushers us into reality and reality is the only place we can meet God. Emotions are the language of the soul. They are messengers from the frontlines of a battle zone. Our tendency is to kill the messenger and in neglecting our most intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and lose a wonderful opportunity to meet God and know God. We forget that change comes through brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.” Dan Allender

The prophet Jeremiah provides a biblical example of brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.

Jeremiah 1:10
Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.

That’s what we’re doing in this series. That’s what I’m doing, that’s what you’re doing. We can continue to do it together.

As Jeremiah laments the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah by the Chaldean armies we can learn a three-fold process to propel us towards emotional maturity.

A disclaimer: There is no way you can reduce grief to a formula. That’s not what this is. These principles can help guide you as the Holy Spirit works in your life.

The first step of this reflective cycle is to experience our emotions.

Lamentations 3:1-20
I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger.He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light. He has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.

He has made my skin and flesh grow old. He has broken my bones. He has besieged and surrounded me with anguish and distress. He has buried me in a dark place, like those long dead. He has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains.

And though I cry and shout, he has shut out my prayers. He has blocked my way with a high stonewall; he has made my road crooked. He has hidden like a bear or a lion, waiting to attack me. He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces, leaving me helpless and devastated.

He has drawn his bow and made me the target for his arrows. He shot his arrows deep into my heart. My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. He has made me chew on gravel.

He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, "My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!"

The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.

I think that there are times when we can relate to what Jeremiah is feeling.

He has lost all hope. He is totally and completely perplexed. Deep in his soul he aches with despair. He is feeling completely broken of all inner strength and utterly helpless.

God has brought circumstances into his life that are insurmountable and he is weary of trying to find a way to escape this reality.

Jeremiah says, “I have been inwardly wounded by God. I’m broken. It hurts. It is painful.”

Jeremiah goes beyond the thinking and rationale part of his brain. And right or wrong, rational or irrational he expresses his feelings. He goes beneath the surface and he admits to God how he is feeling and doesn’t try to put on a saintly smile and stuff his feelings.

As has been said before, “Trying to think our feelings is like trying to listen to a painting.”

What Jeremiah understood is that God can handle it. God wants to move our emotions if we will let Him.

For some of us, a simple but helpful exercise to begin the process of paying attention to our emotions is to listen to our physical body’s reactions in situations—a knot in the stomach, a tension headache, teeth grinding, hands or arms clenched, palms becoming sweaty, neck tightening, foot tapping, or insomnia. Ask yourself, “What might my body be telling me about my feelings right now?” For some of us, becoming aware of our physical bodies is a longs step in the right direction.” Pete Scazzero

Step #1 in embracing our emotions is that we must allow ourselves to feel them.

Lamentations 3:21
The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

Jeremiah not only experiences his emotions, he goes one step deeper.

Jeremiah reflects deeply on his emotions and feelings.

Jeremiah remembers the circumstances that kindled these feelings. Jeremiah doesn’t try to deny his reality by stuffing his feelings. He recognizes that this is a time for mourning.

It won’t work to suppress our feelings about life’s circumstances, people, and events.

We need to learn to pray through with God the “why” behind our feelings. We need to be emotionally honest with God and with others. If we don’t we will have difficulty with intimacy. Intimacy with God and with the people we work with, serve around, and even love. We will be unable to fully embrace a moment with God, or even a moment with the one that we love.

We will stay at a surface level with most people in our lives even with close friends or our spouses because we are afraid of intense emotional expression. We will give everyone who gets too close ‘the Heisman’!

Often when we express deep emotions we find it very difficult not to fight, argue, blame and get angry. We can become dogmatic and rigid and reject beliefs and experiences that are outside of our own box. This is especially true of some Christians!

Do you have difficulty either receiving or giving love?

Ever been in a meeting or having a coffee with friends and then someone disagrees with you and your palms start sweating and you can feel your heart racing in your chest?

We must learn to recognize what our bodies are telling us about what is going on beneath our surface within our emotions world.

We need to talk this through with God. “God I am feeling angry and threatened and afraid when someone disagrees with me. What’s going on?”

What is happening inside of me God? Why does this create such strong feelings in me?

What is going on beneath the surface that Jesus needs to change?

The third part of our reflective cycle is to thoughtfully respond to the reflection we’ve had.

Experience isn’t the best teacher; reflected experience is the best teacher. I know a lot of people that have a lot of experience but haven’t learned a great deal. It’s sad, but true!

As Jeremiah allows himself to feel the depths of his emotion, he is able to embrace who God is. And he doesn’t miss the wonderful opportunity of listening to his emotions because it gives him a window into not only his own soul, but also that of God Himself.

Those deep revelations of God’s love, mercy, faithfulness and grace only come through the process of experiencing and pondering the depth of our emotions and allowing God to touch us where we hurt, allowing God to wrap arms of grace around us as we lay bare our souls.

Lamentations 3:22-30
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, "The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!"

The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline:Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD's demands. Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last.

Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies.

This is why most people love the Psalms. Because David articulates our deepest feelings. David plumbed the depth of who God is, and who we are as fallen beings like almost no one has. He poured out His heart to God and desired to live beneath the surface.

Emotions are a part of who we are. They are a part of the godhead, the Trinity. God the Father talks about a son in whom He is well pleased. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit invite us to join them in perfect harmony and unity for all time. They have relationships. They exist as love. We are invited into the richest of emotional life because that’s a part of God!

Ecclesiastes 3:4
“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

In times of mourning can we mourn, or do we try to dull the ache with pleasure and distraction rather than feel?

In times of joy can we dance or are we too inhibited from years of suppressing feelings and we have forgotten how to dance? Can we with unashamed freedom embrace each moment with life and vitality?

Do you have emotional honesty in your relationships?

What’s Your Pain Medication?

If we were to pour our emotions into an Emotional Bottle, they would look multi-layered.

The cork at the top of the bottle would be indifference, the feelings and decision to cover up and control our upsetting feelings.

When we first begin exploring our emotions, anger is often at the top, the first to reveal itself. It is after we express our anger that we are able to get to the next level, which is usually sadness, pain and fear.

Those feelings lie beneath anger, near the middle of the Bottle, sometimes far out of reach. [For those who were taught anger was a dangerous, forbidden feeling the top layer of the jug might be fear and pain with anger buried underneath, and they need to learn that it is okay to get angry so that they can begin to deal with the pain.]

Beneath these feelings, buried deeply, are our feelings of happiness, peace, tenderness, desire, pleasure and love. The only way to surface them is to uncork the lid of indifference and release the difficult feelings of anger, pain, and fear.

This is what Jeremiah did. He expressed anger, pain, and fear, and in the end he experienced gladness, tenderness, desire, and pleasure and love with God.

I want to encourage you this week to empty your Bottle with God this week.

God this is what I am mad about… go through all 4 questions.

If you are single, ask a close friend to help you 'empty the bottle'. If you are married ask your spouse if they will help empty your Bottle. He or she can ask you these questions.

What are you so mad about?
What are you so sad about?
What are you scared about today?
What are you glad about today?

Remember our goal is not to encourage a self-absorbed narcisstic love of self but rather to bring follow Jesus by loving Him and others with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Can you love that part of you that you are struggling to let go of? Can I love that part of me that I am struggling to let go of? God still does. He wants you to know that today.

In Hosea 9:15, God says, “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there.” But in chapter 11, God says, “But I can’t give you up . . . all my compassion is aroused.”

What Squeezes Out Of You When The Heat Is On? Give it up to God today…


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