There are times when I experience toxic emotions that can lead to sinful behavior. In the past, I used to battle distinguishing the emotion from the behavior, which meant that in an effort to avoid bad behavior I ended up avoiding bad emotions. I guess that having bad emotions made me feel like a bad person, and so I began to strive to be an ’emotionally’ good person. On the positive side, I think I learned good self control, which is a fruit of the Spirit after all. I wanted to obey God’s commands to rejoice, to be patient, to not be anxious. In some ways it worked. I didn’t allow myself to entertain or indulge unhealthy emotions. On the negative side, by moralizing my emotions I actually closed the curtains on the window to my soul. I treated bad emotions like sinful choices, and forgot that there was something under them. So in some ways I lost touch with myself. Lately I find that I am becoming more ‘real’ instead of ‘right’ with my toxic emotions, and I feel more authentic. Yet there is this nagging feeling that it might not always be a good choice.
ARE emotions choices? Are they moral in God’s sight? Or are they merely like the lights on a car’s dashboard that He designed to let me know what’s going on under the bonnet? What is the balance between being real and being right?
My wife studies educational theory. One interesting fact I have been able to grasp from our conversations about it is that there are two basic views on how to educate people. These two views both involve the link between learning and development. The first view is that a person’s learning pulls their development along, while the other view claims that a persons development pushes their learning along. These two theories have complicated names and explanations so I just call them ‘pull’ and ‘push’ learning. Pull education is about teaching people something to help them grow, whereas push education is about waiting for people to grow before teaching them.
Push and pull learning are quite fascinating when you think about the practical implications. Take the school system for example. Should the curriculum be designed to stretch students beyond their capacity so that they can learn faster than if they were not challenged? Or should it be tailored to their natural mental development? There is a lot of debate about how much we can shape the internal growth of children through external influences, and how much we can’t. I can relate to this push and pull dynamic in my personal development. There have been times when new desires, drives and capacities have developed spontaneously in me which have ‘pushed’ me into new explorations and learning that I wouldn’t have had a desire for before. But there have also been other experiences and exposures due to my environment which have inspired (pulled?) me towards growing in an area that I would have never have desired if left to myself.
All this makes me wonder: how does this apply to Christian growth and discipleship? Continue reading
I love children. They can bring such joy to a home and a family. At their best they can be the epitome of innocence, making those around them feel compelled to nurture and protect them. On the other hand, they also often get away with murder as people excuse them for their childish behaviours: their need for attention, their messiness, their manipulations etc. The other day I was confronted with the thought that there are still some things in me that belong in that bracket of bad behaviours. I realised (to reverse a similar saying) that while growing is inevitable, growing up isn’t. People usually say something similar to mean quite the opposite – that we have to grow up, but we don’t have to grow old. I get that, but why do we fear growing old more than we fear not growing up? Is it right to cuddle and excuse your ‘inner child’? For all the encouragement by Jesus be childlike, there is also a lot of discouragement in the Word about remaining childish for too long.
However, many people seem to mourn their journey out of childhood and innocence. They feel that they have somehow lost something, a better part of themselves – or at least a happier one. So they talk about being child-like, or ‘staying young at heart’. In some ways it’s understandable. However you slice it, the world out there does leave its scars as we are lured (or pushed!) into it. And yet, I don’t believe we should cling to our youth because – to put it bluntly – immaturity hurts. I am realizing painfully as I grow older that there are childish things in me which should have passed away and (for some reason) didn’t. There are actually three specific things (that I believe are rooted in childhood) which I would like to share and get your insights on: egocentrism, excitement and impulsivity. Continue reading
Allow me to create a slightly false dichotomy. I have noticed two types of Christian conversation happening in my life: theologizing and testifying. I theologize when I discuss spiritual things that I don’t actually experience and or know anything about in the biblical sense of ‘knowing’. Theologizing conversations have no direct link to my own growth or walk with God. Rather, they usually fill some sort of emptiness in my mind or heart and so they are interesting on a carnal level of curiosity or escapism.
Christian conversation without testimony
When I testify in conversations, on the other hand, I share what God has initiated in my life. I point to real events and moments that reveal God at work in me and in the world. Unlike theologizing, testifying doesn’t often fill some blank in me. It usually happens because I am overflowing. Continue reading
I was reading Ephesians this morning. I usually struggle quite a bit with chapter one, as it is such a long combined thought. However, this morning I just sat and tried to understand it for me as a single person.
What blew me away was the simple reality that God was intentional about choosing me, even before history started. I mean WOW! Is it not incredible relational security to know that I was selected for the role, even before I had ever acted? This is a difficult thought and emotion to really explain, but it is something I want to allow to ferment inside me for a while.
Another crazy thought is that this selection of people is a sign of grace, and not just any grace, but glorious grace! I really struggled to understand that thought. One way I have started to understand it is that God sat with this soiled creation in his hands – and quite frankly – he didn’t have to choose anyone, or even continue with the story. It would just involve a lot of unnecessary pain and anger and disappointment for him to do so.
But he did choose people, and he chose to give this world a future.
Despite the total lack of merit.
I can see the grace in that.
I hope most of you are familiar with the analogy of the relational love-tank? Continue reading
It is a beautiful thought to me that Christianity is about more than just righteousness. We were made to be glorious in God – and this is the goal of our salvation. The bud of our new birth can begin to bloom into a flower of God’s glory, even in this life. When I look at the creation around me, I see a Creator who goes beyond what’s expected or needed – who gets joy out of creating. There is an unnecessary-ness about the varieties of flowers, the hugeness of space and the detail of the micro-sphere. We live in a universe that has an excessive quality about it. It is endlessly fresh.
One morning I looked up into a tree and saw six puffy baby finches lined up along a branch singing their tiny hearts out – the picture of merry innocence. And it just suddenly occurred to me that if I had created such cute little things, surely I would have been in an extremely good mood. Those birds weren’t just designed for practical purposes, they seemed like a passionate poem! There is such an over-the-top glory in God and His creation, a radiant glory that brings refreshment and inspires. God is not just perfect, He’s beautiful.
Have you ever thought: