Feelings, Faith, and a Drunk God on a Motorcycle

Hey there, friend. Thanks for taking some time out of your undoubtedly busy day to read this. Writers knowing their works are read (and, hopefully, appreciated) means a whole lot.

I wanted to take a second to clue you in on a happy little epiphany I had today with the hopes that, at very best, it might produce a similar reaction within you and, at very least, deposit a tiny seed of thought to be watered and eventually bloom fully.

I have this knack, as I’m sure many God-lovers desiring to enrichen their spiritual experience do, where I superglue my feelings and my faith together in this weird God-emotion sandwich. I expect the two to operate in tandem, like two cyclists pedaling in unison on a tandem (seewhatididthere?) bike traveling toward the same destination. Over time, though, I’ve found that to be anything but the case.

Carrying the metaphor of my emotions being a cyclist, he would be the most erratic and illogical entity on two wheels apart from anyone first learning to ride a Ripstik. If anyone were to be stuck on a two-person bike with him, they would have my deepest pity and condolences.

Over these last few years my emotions have been anything but steady. I’ve gone through extreme highs and lows, the two occurring simultaneously both over long periods of time and the same day (can someone tell me how that even works?). This makes sense given my age, the various states of development and maturity I’ve been passing through, and the occasionally-bizarre circumstances I’ve found myself in. I can say “this makes sense” now that I have some perspective, but I rarely do when I’m in the meat of all them feelin’s, which I think is why it’s taken me this long to put any of this together.

Given the spastic movements of my emotions, add in the fact that (in my mind) God was bonded to them like a pair of Siamese twins, and you get a very confused man trying to chase down a God that’s swerving all over the place like a drunken motorcyclist. That’s been me for a while now.

So what’s changed? What sparked the so-called epiphany I mentioned earlier? Two things: my incessant love for the middle-school pop-rock band Eleventyseven, and C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters.

I know how that sounds. Let me elaborate some. No, I’ll let you soak in the bizarreness for a sec.

Okay, now I’ll elaborate.

The song “Feel OK” off Eleventy’s Galactic Conquest album has a chorus that starts like this:

I don’t have to feel OK, to be OK.

followed by a bridge consisting of:

My first impression is I don’t think depression is the tyrant that we make it out to be.

Your life is yours to live for something way more positive than what you woke up feeling like today.

(as soon as you finish the snickering, feel free to keep reading. Cheesy as it may be it’s a solid song and a great album.)

Now, here’s a snippet from a letter teaching how to undermine prayer from Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters:

Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.

Bringing the two together, you see an unmistakeable message calling for the detachment of our emotions from both spirituality and your perspective on where you’re at in life’s big picture.

I’ve spent the better part of my life examining my emotions the way a psychic looks at tarot cards, as if they were able to tell me both how I was doing in life and how God regards me. If I felt down, something had to be wrong. If I felt happy, it was because I was doing something right. If I didn’t feel like I was really fitting into the world around me in a meaningful way, then I wasn’t. If I didn’t feel like God and I were best friends, then we weren’t.

Now that I can see how spastic and unpredictable emotions can be, this way of thinking is obviously absurd. But it’s one I feel lots of people engage in daily. It doesn’t even have to be spiritual. Many of us tend to read far too much into our emotions, giving them fortune-telling powers they were never designed to have. There are always at least a dozen logical reasons why we’re feeling a certain way at any moment, but we think in degrees of disasters and assume one of the most harmful (and typically least logical) reasons is what’s true.

So. That’s that. I’ll let you decide if this is you or not. If not, more power to you. If so, there’s great freedom in realizing God’s not as crazy as your emotions, and that you are always better off than you feel.

Just remember. You don’t have to feel OK to be OK.

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