Saturday, July 19, 2008

Emotion

My July 17 post entitled "Enthusiasm" was born from my reading of Oswald Chambers’ “The Ethics of Enthusiasm” in “Biblical Ethics.” In that chapter, he talks more about emotion in general, rather than specifically about enthusiasm and I found what he said ringing clear to what I know inside me. Let me quote some of his salient statements and make some comments on one quote in particular. All quotes are taken from The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers pages 112-114.
...The tendency is in us all to say, “You must not trust in feelings”; perfectly true, but if your religion is without feeling, there is nothing in it. If you are living a life right with God, you will have feeling, most emphatically so, but you will never run the risk of basing your faith on feelings. ...the emotions become the beautiful ornament of the life, not the source of it....

Human nature, if it is healthy, demands excitement, and if it does not obtain its thrilling excitement in the right way, it will take it in the wrong. ...a healthy, full-orbed life is continually seeking excitement....

...a Christian life that is without the continual recurrence of Divine emotion is suffering from spiritual sleeping sickness....

...without the control of the Spirit of God, devotional emotion and religious excitement always end in sensuality. Emotions that stir feelings must act themselves out, whether rightly or wrongly will depend on the person. If you feel remarkably generous, then be generous at once, act it out; if you don’t, it will react and make you mean [ordinary, common , low or ignoble, rather than cruel or spiteful]. If you have a time of real devotion before God and see what God wants you to do and you do not work it out in your practical life, it will react in secret immorality....

If we have no emotional life, then we have disobeyed God. “Be filled with the Spirit”; it is as impossible to be filled with the Spirit and be free from emotion as it is for a man to be filled with wine and not show it. ... Jesus Christ demands the whole nature, and He demands that part of our nature the devil uses most, viz., the emotional part. We have to get the right bed-rock for our nature, the life of Jesus Christ, and then glean the things which awaken our emotions, and see that those emotions are expressed in ways like the character of our Lord....
For me, these statements validate the role of emotion in my relationship with God.

What struck me most was the second last quote, which reads, in part: "...without the control of the Spirit of God, devotional emotion and religious excitement always end in sensuality." I've often wondered about the chain of events that led me to romance and, in the end, acting out sexually with the woman I call Pearl. The summer we reconnected as friends was a time filled with spiritual growth and the presence of the Holy Spirit and yet it wasn't long before sensuality took over.

Why? If Chambers is correct, it's because I stopped allowing God's Spirit to control me; I heard God speak to me and chose to ignore him, resulting in "secret immorality." The thing is, I didn't realize what was happening. I continued to believe that God was most important to me when, in retrospect, I can see that he clearly was not. My hungers and desires took over and began to rule me. I was blind but thought I could see clearly.

I know God has forgiven me but when I think back on that time, I weep with regret that I was so self-deluded: that I moved so far from God, thinking he was right beside me. I even started writing my book about God's work in my life during this time--thankful for and amazed at all he had done for me while, at the same time, pushing him away in the excitement of passion for someone else.

It is so easy to be foolish, to imperceptibly change direction by a small, seemingly innocuous decision. It is a reminder to me today that I must actively pursue God--spending time speaking and listening to him, confessing when I've done wrong and allowing his Holy Spirit to have complete control of me.

Lord, you were so right when you spoke about the feebleness of man. I'm far more feeble and vulnerable to walking away from you than I like to admit. Thank you for your forgiveness, for your love, grace and mercy, for the voice of your Spirit within me. Lord, keep me filled with your Spirit so that all my emotions are "expressed in ways like [your] character...."

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