My post the other day on feelings and emotions and relationships was probably spurred as much by this book as anything else, FEEL: the power of listening to your heart, by Matthew Elliott (2008, Tyndale). The author’s voice doesn’t feel preachy, even as he is preaching a new perspective on our emotions, our reason, our beliefs and feelings. I’m getting a little tired of the preachy ones, the books that spend half the pagecount telling me what’s wrong (most of which I already know since I picked up the book in the first place) and then the rest of the pages never quite live up to a proper response or countermeasure to what was wrong in the first place. From the beginning of this one, I’ve gotten a different feel – from the very start, we need to incorporate our feelings, need to stop fearing real emotion, and as we read along together we can see what a difference can be made.
"For those who argue that love, joy, and hope are not feelings, the logic is usually quite simple: Emotion is this feeling we have little control over – you cannot command a feeling. Therefore, the love or joy or hope that God commands in the Bible (nobody doubts that God commands love and joy) couldn’t be emotions." (p. 17)
[But] "I wondered how I’d react if I went to church one Sunday and heard, ‘God is telling you that next week you should be filled with happiness and good cheer; you need to give genuine, warm hugs every night to your family; and if something really bad happens to a friend in the church, you need to be over at their house crying with them. No, I don’t mean dropping by a card or a casserole for dinner, your Christian duty. I mean entering into their pain and really crying with them.’ Paul is that teacher. And that is what I learned from him in Romans. To him, a Christian’s emotional life is all rolled up in and with and around how we should behave and how we should think… So feel. And feel deeply." (p. 25)
From this opening thesis, Elliott speaks from the heart, speaks to the heart. My feelings are real, and it’s not a wishy-washiness that sometimes substitute for emotion. It’s something beyond just sentimentalism, too. We talk about real joy, but rarely find it. We want to share the hurts of others, but rarely know where to start. And I think we want this Christian life to be more meaningful than simply following the rules. We would rather have grace and love overflow from lives so full of God we can’t stand it – we want Jesus’ promised abundant life. But most of the time, we can’t find it, much less live it, live out of it.
"Emotional moments and emotional understanding often lead to the greatest clarity in our thinking and understanding. These are the lightbulb moments. They capture the truth in a snapshot, as no amount of rational thinking can." (p. 54)
I need more of those lightbulb moments, more opportunities for real life. Because the way I feel does matter. My angst matters, and my joy matters. My encouragement is real, and the junk really hacks me off. Rejoicing together, mourning together, enjoying each other and living out the journey together – somehow, I think it’s what we’re all looking for, whether we believe it or not.