Is emotion the guiding force of our lives?

Last week I was listening to the radio.  The talk show host told a story about a Dutch man who is 69 years old.  In spite of his senior status, the man feels much younger and his doctor told him that he has the body of a man 20 years younger than his actual age.  Rather than feeling content about this revelation, the man has decided to sue his government to make them allow him to change his birth certificate to reflect the age that he feels rather than reflecting the years that he has spent on this earth.  Absolute insanity.

Principle.  The world has thrown it overboard.  I don’t know when it actually happened, but in the last several decades, there has been an increasing progression towards emphasizing how you feel.  Do you feel like a winner?  Well, then you must be one even though you lost.  Do you feel love for your spouse?  Or have life’s troubles made you lose that initial spark?  Forget the commitment that you made.  Throw the bum out.

My daughter teaches in a school overseas.  As a lead teacher for two middle school grades, she is responsible to deal with problems that arise and with parents that may have questions or problem children.  She has had kids that fight with others, that cut themselves, that bully, and that want to commit suicide.  These children have been thrown under the bus by adults who focus everything on how a person feels.  Middle school children are notoriously emotional.  They feel really up or really down; they feel a little wild or don’t even know how they feel.  They have been given no anchor to their soul, nothing to hold onto in the midst of all this frenzy.  So, of course they turn to things like cutting or total despair.  Their feelings have nothing to hold them in.

In years gone by, many couples weathered severely trying times as a couple, times that threatened to tear them apart.  However, even though their emotions were desperately frayed, they had an anchor.  Their commitment was a vow between them.  They stood on that principle and eventually the storm passed and love returned stronger than ever.  My parents were one such couple.  They weathered many such storms, held on for dear life and grew from their experience.  Their marriage lasted 75 years, the last of which they spent holding hands at one another’s side.

Sometimes we feel as though our world has gone insane.  It has.  An emotion that is left to run wild becomes insane.  Principle holds us.  It keeps our emotions from getting the best of us.  When everything tells us to give up, principle is the anchor of our life.  We hold on for dear life and the eternal principle of faith gets us to the other side of the tumult.

Godly principle holds in emotions that have gone astray.  Godly emotions soften principles that are too hard and fast.  Together they bring a person through the choppy seas of this life.  When we arrive at the far shore, we are stronger, wiser, and kinder.  Our principles have guided our emotions and our emotions have become soft and caring, sweet and wise.  I remember the movie, Parenthood, with Steve Martin.  At the end, the couple is riding a wild roller coaster.  That roller coaster that we call life can bring us safely to the end of its journey, but what if there were nothing to hold it back from flinging us off of its highest peak or one of its most dangerous curves?  Principle holds us to the tracks.  Sometimes we need the sheer force of gravity or the security of seat belts to hold us while our familiar world is being shaken.

We must teach our children principles.  It will give them structure to their lives.  They will have the emotions.  The principles will show them the way and carry them through the trials that they will undoubtedly face.  My age is a fact of life.  No feeling that I allow myself to convince my mind that I am twenty years younger than my actual age will change my actual age.  No matter how much I want to be a bird and fly away, I am still in a human body for the rest of my natural life.  To believe that I am a bird and can fly because I feel like one is just insanity.  Believing that lie will not make me a stronger person.  It will just cause me to try to fly out of a tree and fall on my face.  Emotion without principle is just a wisp in the wind.  The slightest puff of wind will blow it away.

   Matthew 24:35 (NIV) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Isaiah 40:8 (NIV) The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV) “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

Different, but working together!

Men have such an amazing ability to focus on one thing at a time.  It is their strength.  I’ve written about it before (1/20/13).  However, at the time I first wrote about it, I didn’t add to it the perspective of how the strength of women is to see all of the potential results of their own actions and the actions of others.  These two very different strengths ought to compliment one another, but sometimes they come into sharp contrast with the troubling result of starting an argument.

What happened around here this morning is a great example of how these abilities could try to divide us.  This morning, my husband and I were going to go to a Bible study meeting.  We usually bring a large pot of coffee along with us for the participants.  Before we left, he wanted to wash up some of the dishes that were in the sink.  However, it was starting to get late and I was thinking of the repercussions of being late.  He was focused on finishing the dishes.  Maybe you’re already seeing where this is headed.  He picked up the rather large filter for the coffee pot and said that he was going to get rid of the grounds.  I asked him not to.  I had two reasons for that, both of which seemed valid to me and both of which seemed difficult to explain to him on the spur of the moment.  I thought that it was getting late and I wanted him to finish with the dishes already so we could leave and also, the grounds were still hot and I didn’t want him to put them on my outdoor plants while they were still hot.

While those thoughts were still percolating in my brain, he was already reacting, complaining that I always tell him not to do this, not to do that.  We carried on in silence for a while until a little light bulb went off revealing what had just happened.  Like a man, he was completely focused on getting those pesky dishes done, convinced that he was making me happy by doing it.  At the same time, my brain was visualizing all of the ramifications of him continuing with the dishes while time was moving on and of what would result from him throwing the hot grounds on my beloved plants.  He was doing what men do best, focusing, and I was thinking like a woman.

Men and women both have their innate strengths.  If we can recognize them for what they are, we can work together and become a stronger couple instead of reacting and resenting one another for being different.  Men need to be able to focus intently on what they’re doing.  It helps them to do a great job.  And women need to be able to think of all the possibilities of what might happen because of their actions.  Their precautionary wisdom keeps us from doing too much damage to ourselves.  Using our talents and working together, we are really strong.  In the case of what happened this morning, once we talked about it, we could each see what the other was doing and laugh at ourselves a bit, all the while appreciating each other for our differences.  Vive la différence!

Shopping trumps Thanksgiving? Or can Thanksgiving trump shopping?

A quiet morning after Thanksgiving perusing the headlines that shout out to us that shopping has trumped the traditional Thanksgiving meal (cnn.com) has produced a contemplative spirit.  A little outrage too.  Why?  Why would anyone want to give up a delicious meal and relaxing moments with great conversation with friends and family to go out in the cold in order to face off with thousands of people looking for the same bargain?

The outrage comes first.  The whole media/shopping blitz is eroding our country’s family values and traditional ways of living and taking away from time spent relaxing and renewing one’s spirit.  It’s frustrating to see people falling for the media campaigns and enticing ads to constantly shop and spend more money.  To keep a person focused on shopping and attaining more in the way of personal goods is to keep that person focused on the apparent trappings of this natural world and to keep him at the same time far away from reflection on his spiritual and emotional state.  His/her mind is constantly engaged in this natural world and what he/she “needs” to continue to improve his natural surroundings.

After the outrage, more reflection creeps in.  You see, I did not spend my Thanksgiving waiting outside the doors of the local big box store, nor did I head out this morning to get the best deals at the mall.  The question returned: why would someone give up a nice, relaxing afternoon and great conversation with friends and family for …..?  The answer instantly appeared.  They did not give up a nice, relaxing afternoon with friends and family.  Many families barely tolerate each other.  Put them all in one room and the tension can be cut with the same knife used to carve the turkey.  So and so is not talking to so and so and those who are talking to so and so are just feeling sullen today because … who know the because?  Just because.

It’s easy to see in that light why so many would prefer to be out shopping.  I have not ever had to spend a holiday in such an angry environment, thank God.  I have, however, heard of such things.  It’s really a sad commentary on our society that shopping would trump a nice, relaxing afternoon spent in thoughtful conversation and childlike laughter with one’s beloved family and friends.  A lovely and loving afternoon can refresh our spirit and prepare us for the days ahead.  It can give us insight into our world that will help us for weeks and months to come.

The media and advertising campaigns are therefore not the issue.  The underlying issue is the problems in our homes and in our personal lives.  Those problems keep us from making and maintaining strong social and familial relationships.  So, instead of blasting the shoppers and the mega media moguls, we should put our strength into helping families to renew their relationships.  We cannot influence all of those with broken families, but we can influence those around us who may be struggling.  It would be so refreshing to see the shops HAVE to close up on holidays for lack of shoppers.  They will only need to do that when there is something much better going on in American homes.  We can make it happen.