Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Nothing More Than Feelings (Sometimes)

We tend to look for "peace" a lot these days as we go about trying to discern God's will around our decisions. "Do you feel a peace about it?" we ask, leaning, perhaps on Paul's prescription in Philippians.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

While this verse reveals that there's protection in Christ and a "peace" available to us from God, it doesn't say that every, single decision we make must first bear the tug of a fuzzy feeling. If I were to wait on peace before making all of my decisions, I'd be a lifeless lump of uselessness.

I'm reminded of my decision some years ago to attend Dallas Seminary... a decision that was based upon a volition, certainly not a spirit of peace. My children were very young at the time and I was at home full-time looking after them. The seminary was a 40-mile commute along winding, grinding Dallas highways. It could take nearly an hour in typical rush-hour conditions. Throw some rain or a fender bender into the mix and you could add another 15 or 20 minutes. In a near-perfect scenario, and assuming everyone was healthy, I could squeeze in a single morning class and be back in time for 11:45 pre-school pick-up. But when would I study? I refused to put my boys in front of a TV while I hit the books. So I would have to find a way to study around them. That meant very early mornings or very late nights. In summary: No thanks!

I made the decision to attend seminary and I had absolutely no peace in my heart. None. What I had was a calling... a strong sense that, in spite of a lack of positive feelings about this decision, I had to make a volitional choice. This was one of the clearest, strongest callings of my life. And there wasn't an ounce of peace around it. If I had waited for the peace to make a decision, I'd still be waiting.

Sometimes, we just have to step out in faith and be obedient despite what we feel. I do wholeheartedly believe that God does give us the peace that transcends understanding. Sometimes he graciously does this right up front. Other times it's delayed (as was the case for me with respect to seminary). But there's no guarantee (e.g., Mother Teresa?).

I no longer look for a feeling to precede every, single commitment in my life. Feelings can deceive us. The theater that hosts my emotions is often directed not by God but by Satan who knows that shadow-and-light manipulation of our hearts is a wildly successful conduit for bringing us down. It's not often, really, that he hurls us violently off a cliff; many of us won't get too close to the edge. Sometimes he simply guides us along a gently, descending slope... where it's a matter of inches and feet... small degrees... imperceptibly down we traverse by way of our tender, feeling hearts.

A funny one heard in class: Said the professor to the student: "When they give you your master's in theology... don't you believe it!"

Check back tomorrow for more of my interview with Evelyn Adams!

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