Monday, July 26, 2010

True faithfulness…

Our emotional lives move up and down constantly. Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos. A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings. Mostly we have little control over these changes. It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us. As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are. We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children…

Are we condemned to be passive victims of our moods? Must we simply say: “I feel great today” or “I feel awful today,” and require others to live with our moods?

Although it is very hard to control our moods, we can gradually overcome them by living a well-disciplined spiritual life. This can prevent us from acting out of our moods. We might not “feel” like getting up in the morning because we “feel” that life is not worth living, that nobody loves us, and that our work is boring. But if we get up anyhow, to spend some time reading the Gospels, praying the Psalms, and thanking God for a new day, our moods may lose their power over us…

When someone hurts us, offends us, ignores us, or rejects us, a deep inner protest emerges. It can be rage or depression, desire to take revenge or an impulse to harm ourselves. We can feel a deep urge to wound those who have wounded us or to withdraw in a suicidal mood of self-rejection. Although these extreme reactions might seem exceptional, they are never far away from our hearts. During the long nights we often find ourselves brooding about words and actions we might have used in response to what others have said or done to us.

It is precisely here that we have to dig deep into our spiritual resources and find the centre within us, the centre that lies beyond our need to hurt others or ourselves, where we are free to forgive and love…

Our emotional lives and our spiritual lives have different dynamics. The ups and downs of our emotional life depend a great deal on our past or present surroundings. We are happy, sad, angry, bored, excited, depressed, loving, caring, hateful, or vengeful because of what happened long ago or what is happening now.

The ups and downs of our spiritual lives depend on our obedience - that is, our attentive listening - to the movements of the Spirit of God within us. Without this listening our spiritual life eventually becomes subject to the windswept waves of our emotions…

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

This is shockingly true. It’s hard for we who were young in the sixties and seventies to admit it, but so much of the practical philosophy of our time was based around, “If it feels good, do it…” that we accept our feelings as being as given as the weather, as immune to will and intention as the changing seasons. Not so. Feelings are not wrong – they can be beautiful, and true – but they are fertile ground for the father of lies to plant his seeds. The answer is not to cauterise our feelings, to become heartless, tight-lipped prudes; far from it, our calling is truly to open our hearts, to love God, and our fellow-creatures, with a steadfast and settled intent. This is true faithfulness, and only from this ground will spring the lovely fruits of the Spirit - healing, nourishing, making whole again, bringing Christ alive in our hearts as he promised,

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:18-23)

1 comment:

  1. "our calling is truly to open our hearts, to love God, and our fellow-creatures, with a steadfast and settled intent. This is true faithfulness, and only from this ground will spring the lovely fruits of the Spirit - healing, nourishing, making whole again, bringing Christ alive in our hearts as he promised"... And then "if it feels good, do it" can have an entirely different meaning, no?

    ReplyDelete