Monday, March 18, 2013

Faith Beyond Feelings

I don’t know if it is my personality, my human weakness, or the fact that I am female or the fact that I am American, but more often than not- what I do and why is dictated by how I feel about something, or how I believe something will make me feel. In what I reassure myself is a sophisticated way, I do a very good job of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. For those who are into Myers-Briggs, I am an ENFJ, with a strong E and a strong F. In other words, I very much use my emotions and feelings to navigate my way through life! And although this provides me with many advantages (being attuned to others, having strong intuitions etc.) I also recognize it sometimes causes me to be lazy, avoidant and some other not-so-noble things.
So it is easy to see how this applies to things like personal health, exercise, weight, what to work on day to day. It is so easy for me to focus on the “fun and quick” items on my to-do list versus the more time intensive and laborious items.
My dad said something recently I found insightful- often times people do not advance in life because they are too focused on their immediate gratification versus the long term dreams/results/ambitions. They (we as humans) have very little ability to motivate and work towards the big picture.  
I have adopted a new satisfying policy for myself over the last two weeks that although is not always fun-has made a huge difference in my daily effectiveness. I call it the “do it anyway” philosophy. I don’t want to/feel like cleaning the house – Do it Anyway. I don’t feel like sending that email, completing that draft, submitting that form- do it anyway. This morning I woke up, I looked outside with all the snow and traffic and I REALLY did not feel like going to work. Guess what? Do it anyway. "I don't or do" feel like X could be voiced to yourself in a variety of ways: "I am too tired, I don't want to, I think that's stupid" to name a few of my guises.
Over the last two weeks I have really noticed how much my feelings permeate my excuses and reasons in life. I feel like eating that, I don’t feel like hurrying to be on time, I don’t feel like reaching out to that person, I feel like relaxing instead of exercising. Every day, day in and day out. It is slightly sickening to realize the extent of it.
For me, the radical shift in perspective here around my personal discipline has been to cease using my feelings and emotions as a valid excuse to do or not do something. Rather, life has a lot more to do with following through on what I said I would do- not as much how much I feel about it. I have these moments during the day where I catch myself “I don’t feel like…” aha! Do it anyway! This is a very simple idea in writing and surprisingly profound one in practice.
I was amazed at church this Sunday about how well this new theme tied in with the sermon. The pastor talked about anxiety, and said something to the effect of:
“Anxiety is the smoke leading to a fire within your soul. It is the implosion of a false idol, and the recognition of love misplaced.”
What a neat reflection! Anxiety I know historically has been one of my go-to emotions. And really, in the context of this sermon, the pastor suggests it points to what you are worshipping in your life above God. For example, I am anxious about what my job upcoming job transition is going to look like. Really, what this signifies is me in my mind hinging my self-worth, well-being and confidence on whether I have a good job or not (classic mistake btw right?!). Rather, I need to remember to trust God in providing what is next for me career wise on his terms. And ultimately, if I end up with no job- I will still have him and that is what is most important.
Additionally, do you know the most common command in the bible is “do not fear/do not be afraid?” I believe fear is the most common emotion to take us away from our faith.
This made me think, how often do our feelings get in the way of our relationship with God? Our fears, desires, laziness- keep us from rigorously seeking him in our daily lives. I know there have been times I have been scared to pray for what I might uncover. There have been times I just haven’t wanted to, or done something that goes against God’s will for me because it feels good. And it is these little shadows of thought, fleeting and then disappearing, that too often dictate my relationship with God and the rigor with which I bring to my day to day life. Starting now, I do not want to overstep such hindering feelings anymore.
And I don’t think there is anything wrong with feelings- believe me I am a feeling queen! I love feeling close to God- as a tangible experience versus a dull discipline. I just am recognizing where sometimes my feeling humanity gets in the way of me really living my life effectively for the divine. And lately I am recognizing how often postponing the immediate gratification leads to something deeply more fulfilling. Like my drive to work today, after muscling my way onto 94W amidst ice and snow, I became newly awash with the beauty surrounding me, the satisfaction of preserving through the weather to make it to work, the sense of adventure and accomplishment that I don’t usually benefit from on my drive to work. The “do it anyway” mentality really paves the way for a lifestyle beyond the typical.
The question underlying this entire blog post I believe is- what drives you? What drives you to do what you do each day? Is it the God-given fuel of your soul and true self? Your innermost and most genuine essence? Or is it your shrouding humanity- hindering feelings, thoughts, confusions. And the follow up question then is, beyond morality and science and society and all the forces in this world, what power do you want to dictate your day to day experience and how you live your life?

1 comment:

  1. this reminds me of Mother Theresa's famous poem "Love anyway" which is so beautiful. I like your questions at the end of your post. They have me thinking. In my current stage it is easy to "do it anyways" because from the moment I wake until I go to bed I am doing things my kids need me to do--and I must do--for their well being and survival. Often my own needs get neglected so I don't struggle with the do it anyways mentality, but I do struggle with the overall bigger picture of my true soul and true self amidst the busyness of my current life. I have not thought about this in a long while and I have been unhappy and dreary these past two weeks with this brutal weather and in general tough time of year. Thank you for your post, I need to focus on feeling my feelings and letting them go--a practice that I find helps when I remind myself not to get stuck on my feelings and to look at a bigger perspective! Feelings do count, but they don't get the final say if we don't let them, right!