A Change of Perspective

perspective

It shouldn’t have bothered me. I was calling my doctor’s office to see if I could schedule a follow-up appointment… to an appointment I haven’t had yet. I wanted to get it set on the calendar ahead of time since the schedule is filling up so quickly. Perhaps it was my hesitancy over the phone, but the scheduling department woman pounced. I was breaking the rules. I could not make that second appointment yet. I would have to wait. And then I just started crying. I couldn’t control it, and the harder I tried to keep it in the more tears that fell down my face and cracked my voice. I heard a hint of compassion in her voice as she told me she would let me leave a message for my doctor’s medical assistant, but then she also followed up with strict instructions, “be BRIEF.” I’m breathed in and out as I waited to leave my message. By the time I stated my case I decided to wrap up with, “I’m so sorry if I’ve taken up too much of your time… and my phone number is…” and I just lost it. I’ll be really impressed if she can even understand my phone number.

And that’s when the full on sobs took over. Suddenly every possible situation that I could worry about, despair over, fear- they all overtook me. “I don’t like breaking the rules. It’s too much. I have too much. Too many people. Too many relationships. Too many things to think and worry about. I will never finish this book.”

To get the full effect you should imagine each of those phrases cloaked in heaves and sobs. Just picture a 4 year-old who needs a nap. I felt as though I couldn’t pull my emotions back around, and my recent hurts were about to take me back to bed so I could cry myself to sleep.

T

 

But I didn’t. Instead I opened up an e-mail from my dear friend and finally opened up the link to her latest blog post. Tanuja has a heart the size of New York and she has spent just about every weekend since Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast volunteering her time and labor to restore homes and life for those communities. As I read the paragraphs my tears just stopped. I felt my heart making a major u-turn.

 

The surest way to change emotions is a shift in perspective.

 

I could spend all day nursing my doubts and worry, or I could remember the joy that comes from loving others. As Tanuja reminds me, there are so many opportunities to love.

Rather than letting my volunteer opportunities and relationships overwhelm me, today I am choosing to see each of those as opportunities to love those individuals uniquely placed in my life. Each face is an opportunity to love.

Sometimes all we need is a shift in heart perspective.

“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” Galatians 5:13-15a, The Message

Following and learning,
Ginger

I Second that Emotion…

Dear Ginger,

I had a young girl ask me the other day, “What do I do with my emotions?” I told her that it would not be wise to let them be the driving force of our decisions, but rather, they can be the caboose that follows our engine of truth and action. But then, I thought, there they are, still holding up the back of the train – for what purpose? I love what Elisabeth Elliot says about emotions being given by God and for God – simply as more fodder that we may offer back up unto Him in complete surrender. Tim Keller shed some light on the situation in a series on “Praying Your Tears” as an honest confession and cry for help. However, I struggle with what that means on a practical day-to-day basis. For instance,

The boy and I broke up last month.

When people ask me, “How are you doing with that whole boy thing?” here is what goes through my head:

-I am sad because I miss him.
-I often feel lonely because I am no longer living life right alongside someone as closely as we were, and don’t ‘feel’ as known.
-I am resolved and peaceful, though, that the Lord is his God, not me, and accordingly, I choose to rest in His sovereignty.
-Because of the current stage in life and transitions that it has involved, “how I am” is a very conditional, fluid concept.
– But I am FINE. Positionally, I am redeemed! delivered! held, comforted, loved, known, and never alone. So that truth clearly changes the way I view all of my feelings. . .

Then I am left here – a place where I know the truth, but still suffer the feelings of loss. Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly – meaning I view my day as if the truth were the only reality I knew and trust that the feelings will eventually change?

Basically, I am wondering how we, as Christ followers, properly steward our emotions. How do we simultaneously and appropriately validate their placement, but treat them as simple feelings rather than huge road signs that determine our future directions? -K

Wow. Wow. Wow.  This question and explanation give such a window into your heart… and what a beautiful heart you have!  K, thank you so much for letting us all take a moment to explore what it looks like for us to properly steward our emotions.  You’ve obviously taken the time to study this on your own.  What a great list of resources you already have at your disposal.

First things first.  Change brings grief.  I’ve always enjoyed leaving home and adventuring, I’ve just never understood why I tend to have a breakdown the day before I travel.  I recognize now that I anticipate a change and grieve even in advance.  Is this an area of distrust?

I agree with your quote by Elliot – that feelings are given by God and are for God.  Feelings can influence, but you’re right, we walk into dangerous territory when we let our feelings lead.

Disney would have us “follow your heart” and “let your heart be your guide,”  while Scripture reminds us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”   Our flesh and the Spirit are opposed.  Galatians 5:16-24 goes so far as to explain why they both can’t lead at the same time.

 So I tell you: Live by following the Spirit. Then you will not do what your sinful selves want.17 Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please. But if the Spirit is leading you, you are not under the law.

The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins,20 worshiping gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people, feeling envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like these. I warn you now as I warned you before: Those who do these things will not inherit God’s kingdom. But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their own sinful selves. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.

And yet, emotions are a very real part of humanity.  During his time on the earth, Jesus displayed anger, joy and even sorrow.  He felt and experienced emotions deeply when it came to relationships.  C.S. Lewis discusses the cost of living as relational beings.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

So, how do we walk in the Spirit when it comes to our emotions?  How do we keep from becoming hardened by hurt and change?

1.  We recognize that apart from Christ we can do nothing.  (Romans 7:18, John 15:5)  Any ability to continue to give ourselves over to the possibility of being hurt is going to come from the Lord.  He has the power for us to live and move confidently even amidst our changing tides of emotion.

2.  We continue to communicate with God.  Psalm 51:10 in the NCV says: “Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again.”  The Psalmist asks that God would give him a pure heart and a right spirit.  He actively pursues health and righteousness even on an emotional level.  The closing of Psalm 139 has become one of my daily prayers: Search me, know me, test me, lead me.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  If we are to find victory even in our feelings, it begins with an open line of communication with the Father.

3.  We rely on God.  We trust in Him.  (Proverbs 3:5)  Certainly we want to discipline ourselves in this area.  I’ll be the first to admit that I often don’t want to change my feelings when I’m having a rough go.  I want to be sorry for myself.  I want to feel hurt and angered.  I want to feel the loss.  I know that He has what I need, but the temptation (at least for me) is to turn to gossip, self-pity, and temporary fixes with food, shopping, and even escape through movies and tv.  The moment I choose to rely on anything else other than God I am denying Him the opportunity to work in a mighty way in my life.  It’s a forceful act of reason sometimes, but in hindsight I know He is the only one who can heal.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, 
   because the LORD has anointed me 
   to preach good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
   to proclaim freedom for the captives 
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor 
   and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn…  Isaiah 61:1-2

4.  We must learn to react out of truth.  K, I think you answered much of your own question when you said:  Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly?  Yes.  I think that’s a huge part of what our response should be.  As C.S. Lewis says in his novel The Silver Chair“Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”   I really and truly believe that sooner or later we have to decide what to do.  In our case, I believe that’s clinging to and reacting to truth rather than just emotion.  We plan ahead.  We have to be proactive and acknowledge that there will be bad days.  There will be crumple to the bathroom floor nights.  And there will be pull up your knees and sob at your steering wheel moments.  Those challenges are coming.  But what we choose to do “sooner or later” has everything to do with where we have placed our hope and if we are grounded in Truth.

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message)

I know God gave me emotions and the ability to feel deeply, but He also gave me a head on my shoulders and oodles of truth in His Word.  As much as I don’t want to admit it or live it- my reaction is my choice.  The feelings will always be there, but hopefully I’m allowing them to be interpreted by a Master translator and guide.

You will keep in perfect peace 
   him whose mind is steadfast, 
   because he trusts in you. 
 Trust in the LORD forever, 
   for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

Please chime in on this one!  This feels like just the tip of the iceberg.  Share you thoughts for K below.  K- I hope it’s a start to answering this deep and meaningful question.

Following,
Ginger

*A Retro Post from October 4, 2011.

Emoting Emotions

Dear Ginger,

I had a young girl ask me the other day, “What do I do with my emotions?” I told her that it would not be wise to let them be the driving force of our decisions, but rather, they can be the caboose that follows our engine of truth and action. But then, I thought, there they are, still holding up the back of the train – for what purpose? I love what Elisabeth Elliot says about emotions being given by God and for God – simply as more fodder that we may offer back up unto Him in complete surrender. Tim Keller shed some light on the situation in a series on “Praying Your Tears” as an honest confession and cry for help. However, I struggle with what that means on a practical day-to-day basis. For instance,

The boy and I broke up last month.

When people ask me, “How are you doing with that whole boy thing?” here is what goes through my head:

-I am sad because I miss him.
-I often feel lonely because I am no longer living life right alongside someone as closely as we were, and don’t ‘feel’ as known.
-I am resolved and peaceful, though, that the Lord is his God, not me, and accordingly, I choose to rest in His sovereignty.
-Because of the current stage in life and transitions that it has involved, “how I am” is a very conditional, fluid concept.
– But I am FINE. Positionally, I am redeemed! delivered! held, comforted, loved, known, and never alone. So that truth clearly changes the way I view all of my feelings. . .

Then I am left here – a place where I know the truth, but still suffer the feelings of loss. Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly – meaning I view my day as if the truth were the only reality I knew and trust that the feelings will eventually change?

Basically, I am wondering how we, as Christ followers, properly steward our emotions. How do we simultaneously and appropriately validate their placement, but treat them as simple feelings rather than huge road signs that determine our future directions? -K

Wow. Wow. Wow.  This question and explanation give such a window into your heart… and what a beautiful heart you have!  K, thank you so much for letting us all take a moment to explore what it looks like for us to properly steward our emotions.  You’ve obviously taken the time to study this on your own.  What a great list of resources you already have at your disposal.

First things first.  Change brings grief.  I’ve always enjoyed leaving home and adventuring, I’ve just never understood why I tend to have a breakdown the day before I travel.  I recognize now that I anticipate a change and grieve even in advance.  Is this an area of distrust?

I agree with your quote by Elliot – that feelings are given by God and are for God.  Feelings can influence, but you’re right, we walk into dangerous territory when we let our feelings lead.

Disney would have us “follow your heart” and “let your heart be your guide,”  while Scripture reminds us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”   Our flesh and the Spirit are opposed.  Galatians 5:16-24 goes so far as to explain why they both can’t lead at the same time.

 So I tell you: Live by following the Spirit. Then you will not do what your sinful selves want.17 Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please.18 But if the Spirit is leading you, you are not under the law.

 19 The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins,20 worshiping gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people,21 feeling envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like these. I warn you now as I warned you before: Those who do these things will not inherit God’s kingdom.22 But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their own sinful selves. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.

And yet, emotions are a very real part of humanity.  During his time on the earth, Jesus displayed anger, joy and even sorrow.  He felt and experienced emotions deeply when it came to relationships.  C.S. Lewis discusses the cost of living as relational beings.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

So, how do we walk in the Spirit when it comes to our emotions?  How do we keep from becoming hardened by hurt and change?

1.  We recognize that apart from Christ we can do nothing.  (Romans 7:18, John 15:5)  Any ability to continue to give ourselves over to the possibility of being hurt is going to come from the Lord.  He has the power for us to live and move confidently even amidst our changing tides of emotion.

2.  We continue to communicate with God.  Psalm 51:10 in the NCV says: “Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again.”  The Psalmist asks that God would give him a pure heart and a right spirit.  He actively pursues health and righteousness even on an emotional level.  The closing of Psalm 139 has become one of my daily prayers: Search me, know me, test me, lead me.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  If we are to find victory even in our feelings, it begins with an open line of communication with the Father.

3.  We rely on God.  We trust in Him.  (Proverbs 3:5)  Certainly we want to discipline ourselves in this area.  I’ll be the first to admit that I often don’t want to change my feelings when I’m having a rough go.  I want to be sorry for myself.  I want to feel hurt and angered.  I want to feel the loss.  I know that He has what I need, but the temptation (at least for me) is to turn to gossip, self-pity, and temporary fixes with food, shopping, and even escape through movies and tv.  The moment I choose to rely on anything else other than God I am denying Him the opportunity to work in a mighty way in my life.  It’s a forceful act of reason sometimes, but in hindsight I know He is the only one who can heal.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, 
   because the LORD has anointed me 
   to preach good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
   to proclaim freedom for the captives 
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor 
   and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn…  Isaiah 61:1-2

4.  We must learn to react out of truth.  K, I think you answered much of your own question when you said:  Do I acknowledge the feelings, preach the truth, and act accordingly?  Yes.  I think that’s a huge part of what our response should be.  As C.S. Lewis says in his novel The Silver Chair“Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”   I really and truly believe that sooner or later we have to decide what to do.  In our case, I believe that’s clinging to and reacting to truth rather than just emotion.  We plan ahead.  We have to be proactive and acknowledge that there will be bad days.  There will be crumple to the bathroom floor nights.  And there will be pull up your knees and sob at your steering wheel moments.  Those challenges are coming.  But what we choose to do “sooner or later” has everything to do with where we have placed our hope and if we are grounded in Truth.

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message

I know God gave me emotions and the ability to feel deeply, but He also gave me a head on my shoulders and oodles of truth in His Word.  As much as I don’t want to admit it or live it- my reaction is my choice.  The feelings will always be there, but hopefully I’m allowing them to be interpreted by a Master translator and guide.

You will keep in perfect peace 
   him whose mind is steadfast, 
   because he trusts in you. 
4 Trust in the LORD forever, 
   for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

Please chime in on this one!  This feels like just the tip of the iceberg.  Share you thoughts for K below.  K- I hope it’s a start to answering this deep and meaningful question.

Following,
Ginger

For more on feelings check out this post from last March.