What are feelings for?
“How did you feel when you were there?”
“Sad. Painful, it was like being stabbed with lots of knives. The whole place is like a graveyard.”
She looks at me quizzically. I look at her.
“…Why are you smiling a lot? It doesn’t match with what you’re saying.”
“No, what, am I?!”
I’m good at writing stories to amuse myself about feelings that are not so amusing. Sure I can talk about how I feel, or write them openly like I’m doing now because it’s like someone else’s story. Feelings are welcome, if they sit at a safe distance.
“What did God make feelings for?”
“I don’t know. They get in the way of things and are difficult to manage.”
“So you feel everything will be better without them?”
“Well no.” I wanted to say yes, but I knew it sounded awfully unhealthy.
I think I’ve come to subconsciously adopt the concept that growing up means to value mind, and practicality, over heart. Growing up means you don’t fall head-over-heels over a guy but will make calculated life decisions. Growing up means you scoff at people who struggle with feeling lonely in long distance relationships – growing up means you don’t need anyone’s company. Growing up means you don’t cry anymore at the airport, or miss the communities you leave behind every time you pack up your bags to leave. Growing up means you feel for people who suffer, for relatives who grieve, but from a distance. Growing up means you have a clear mind when your patients don’t. Growing up means you don’t get hurt because only you have the lock to your heart. I’ve mostly become efficient at this (except when I’m not, which I find most frustrating).
So, what are feelings for then?
“You’re thinking of the negative ones, there’s a whole ocean of emotions out there. Some people find it scary but that’s also what makes people feel alive. God gives us not only eternal life, but abundant life. In a relationship if you switch off emotions, the other person can feel it too, and it won’t be fulfilling in the long term.”
I think I’ve mistaken growing up to be mind with no heart, when what we actually mean is growing in mind plus heart. Emotions are not inherently weak or bad – feelings connect people and without feelings there isn’t much in the way of interpersonal relationships. Jesus demonstrated emotions on Earth, God expresses emotions, and we are made in his image.
Even in my relationship with God, I could feel more of what it means to be loved by God and to love God with all my heart, as well as soul, strength, and mind. I feel more through songs but to be honest, I have never related well with lyrics about joy and feeling the love of, or for, God. I almost regretted sharing this with the counsellor when I saw her in the congregation on a subsequent Sunday, as I stood up in front with the worship team to sing this song. Oh well, I might feel like a phoney but I’m not if I am sincere before God –