When we are children we know for sure that everything we feel and think is okay. There is no such thing as inappropriate. As we age we come to suspect that there is an underlying truth to emotion. In an unhealthy family governed by unhealthy or unknowing parents, a childís behavior can be punished without anyone ever taking a look at the emotions behind it. A tragic thing can occur from this; the child learns that emotions are wrong.
In this setting, anger, fear, resentment, all become unacceptable and inappropriate emotions. Before a child is in first grade they have most likely learned to quell these urges, like potty training they experience passion training, to only let their strongest emotions out in the most stringent and controlled manner. We are taught to only express ourselves in socially acceptable ways. We find things to do, perfectly wonderful things, but not always the best things. We use activities that should merely be supplements to expression as our sole means of expression. Instead of doing what we really feel like doing, we tone it all down, we turn the volume down on our passion and let it out carefully, in small, measured amounts. Let me put this topic to rest for a moment and present the next and more important part.
God is beautiful, graceful, loving, flowing with all things good. Everything good comes from Him. How does one express that? How does one take the beauty we feel from God and project it? Express it? We create, we decorate, we administrate, and sometimes, everyone once in a while we do something wonderful with all that passion; we throw our hands up in the air, bow our heads and pour all the beauty back onto God for all His glory; we worship. Passion training does not- or should not- apply here, none of the rules we are taught about how to express ourselves matter in worship. It occurs to me, in my young and inexperienced mind, that worship is the most honest expression of emotion there is. Think about it, there you are, you and the Father, just the two of you. No schedules, no colors, no patterns, no schemas, no scripts, no fear, no pain, and ideally, no hesitation, there you are with your God. His grace, beauty, faithfulness, goodness, and most of all, His love flows through you like living water and you take it all in and shine it out onto Him and in those wonderful, sweet moments, you are surrounded by Him and all His greatness. True, honest, genuine worship.
Am I the only one who just let out a sigh of longing?
In order to be in this moment, this deep, true worship, we must first be able to reach a place in which we can let go of the restrictions of our passion training. Allow ourselves to feel our emotions, all of them, I mean all of them. You canít pour your heart out to God if youíve got it stuffed into a heart-shaped box. You canít release your soul to worship if your soul is restricted by the demands of the world.
Before panic is induced, let me say, please, that I am not at all suggesting that we Ďlet ourselves goí and forget our potty training. By all means, there is a time and a place for worship. There is a time and a place for emotion. It is not appropriate to vent years of pent up rage in your bossís office. The problem, which I will return to, is that somewhere along the way many of us learn that there is never a time that is appropriate for the letting loose of our emotions. We feel the anger and we tamp it down, we feel the fear and we try to swat it away, but those emotions donít just go away. Emotions have one of two fates, either they are processed normally-meaning you allow yourself to feel it, or they are repressed, as in pressed down against your inner self to build one on top of the other. The first option is a whole lot better in the long run. Does this have anything to do with worship? I think it has everything to do with worship.
I am not a perfect Christian. There, itís out there, I said it. Now you can say it, too. Go on and say it, or just think it so no one can hear you. Alright, now the healing can begin. I am not a perfect Christian. I donít study my Bible the way I should. I donít pray as often as I would like. I am working on those things, and I think Iím making progress, and I feel closer to God. I think that means Iím getting better. But thereís another thing I want to work on, work toward; true, genuine worship. I have experienced it before, when the work finally all got done and the schedules were finally put on hold and some of the emotions that I have tamped down over the years have chunked themselves away, making my soul feel a little lighter. It has happened to me, that I raise my hands to God and open my heart and let it all go, let the worries and the hesitation all slip away. I stave off the idea that I might not yet be good enough to come before the Lord. This has happened a few times to me, but I want it more, I want more, I want more of Him, I need more of Him and the closeness. I want to climb onto His throne and curl into His lap and feel Him wrap His mighty arms around me. But something stops me. I have homework to do. I have to work tomorrow. Laundry, bills, taxes. Then it gets really bad. I have a shirt on that doesnít lay just right on my hips. People might be looking at me. No, just ignore that. Okay, Iím really starting to feel the music. Anyone looking at me? No, why would they be looking at you? Can I put my hands up? What do I do when I want to put my hands back down? Will people think Iím not good anymore when I put my hands down? What if I get an itch, what will I do?
None of these things should be in my mind at that moment. None of these things should be in anyoneís mind at that moment. God should be on your mind, God and God alone. I have trouble getting to that place, and I blame my passion training.
So the problem has been identified, alright, great! Thatís wonderful!
Now, we start again. Work on the solution. How do I learn to let go of it all and just feel? How do I learn to let it out? By letting it out. Ever feel like jumping for joy? Well, then, jump for joy! Ever feel like crying for what seems to be no reason? Well, then, cry! I assure you, there is a reason. Ever just feel like baking something? Well, then, bake something! Ever feel like you miss your childhood and you want to get a spoon and eat a big olí chunk of peanut butter strait out of the jar? Well, thenÖ.
Again, I am not saying to go wherever you want. Iím not suggesting you leave work right in the middle of a meeting to go home and bake some brownies, but I am saying that I donít think we give those things enough priority. I donít think many of us have gotten to the point where we can say, Iím going to stay home this weekend and not have a bunch of people over like usual, and do whatever I feel like. Iím going to make it a priority, bump a few smaller things down on the list, and make some time to go jump for joy, just in case I feel the urge. Iím going to dance in the backyard the next time it rains. Iím going to take a bubble bath with the radio on just because it makes me happy and itís what I feel like doing.
And later, when I get mad at something, Iím going to crawl out onto a limb and actually, brace yourselves, get mad! Iím going to growl, and I might stamp my feet on the way up the stairs. In fact, I might go
back downstairs just so I can stomp up the stairs a second time. Then Iím going to go to my room and put my pillow over my head and scream until my throat hurts and Iím going to feel okay about that because there is nothing wrong with what I feel.
There is a time and a place for emotional release, I am not disputing that. I am saying merely that in my opinion, weíve taken that concept way too far. I think we keep too close a check on our emotions sometimes. Maybe itís not okay to cry in a board meeting or laugh at a funeral, but that doesnít mean that itís never okay to cry, never okay to laugh. I think that along the journey towards a good, close, relationship with God, we need to let go of some of the inhibitions that surround emotion. I think we need to let ourselves feel more than we do. And I think we need to get our priorities strait. My happiness should not be my number one priority, but it should be ahead of keeping the house spotless. It should be ahead of alphabetizing my CDís, and it should definitely be ahead of worrying about what other people think. As children we are often taught to always be in control of our emotions just the same as our bowels. But there is a huge difference. Perhaps we need to take another look at our passion training, and see if it was too stringent, see if itís getting in the way of good, honest expression, and good, open worship.
Well-written article. Your tone was conversational, and that made for good reading. I agree with your point as well. God made us emotional beings. He wants us to worship Him with EVERYTHING we have and are (that would include our emotions). There are good brethren that are under the impression that its a sin to be angry. If that were so, then wouldn't that mean that Jesus sinned, because He got angry more than once!
With regard to worship, my understanding is that we are to bring all of ourselves into submission to our spirit which communes with God the Holy Spirit. We are not to be lED by our emotions, because they will lead us away from true worship; however, when we submit our emotions and we are free to express them in our worship, we reach a deeper communion with our Heavenly Father.
Again, very good job! Amen and amen!