Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Confessions of a Reformed Feeler: Part 3

  noun \thē-ˈä-lə-jē\
: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience : the study of God and God's relation to the world
: a system of religious beliefs or ideas

No pussy footing around tonight.  I am a feeler so I can say bold and potentially controversial things about feelers.  Here’s one:

The reason that feelers often struggle with life is because they have bad theology. 

It’s true.  When I was in the height of my feeling-worshipping days, I often believed God WASN’T good. I would have never spoken those words, or really even consciously contemplated them in my brain, but my behavior showed that my theology was skewed. 

The reason high feelers have bad theology is this: their feelings are often contrary to the Truth of God’s Word.  Let me show you:

God says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

But the feeler says, “God must not be working for my good because these things FEEL bad to me.  Conclusion:  God is not good this time.

God says [He] will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

But the feeler says, “God can’t really meet all of my needs.  I FEEL like I need a person to do that.”  Conclusion: God is not enough for me. 

God says Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

But the feeler says, “I can’t help the way I am.  I FEEL like I will never be able to change.”  Conclusion:  Christ’s spirit doesn’t really give me new life.”

What happens when the feeler reads God’s Truth but interprets it according to his feelings is this: his feelings reign supreme and God is called a liar.  When the feeler decides that what he feels is reality, rather than using his mind to capture those rogue thoughts, he allows fuzzy thinking—rather than God’s Word--to be his ruler.  This incorrect thinking leads to a wrong view of God and a self-focused worldview. 

One of my favorite theologians is A.W. Tozer.  I really like A.W. because he helps me keep my head on straight and my feelings in line.  A.W. once said What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So true.  If I color God by the way I feel about Him, I am showing how little I understand His character.  My theology should be formed by the reality of God’s proven character—His omniscience, His immutability, His sovereignty, His righteousness--not by the auspices of my deceptive and deceitful heart.

But, on the other hand, when I learn about the amazing God we serve and study His attributes, I am blown away by His greatness, His holiness, His God-ness, and I realize how wobbly my “feeler-driven theology” really is.  In my shallow-mindedness, I am trying to personify Jesus to be like a faulted human—like me-- when really He is like nothing I could ever imagine.  He is far better than that.
When I weigh my feelings against His character, I find myself to be sorely lacking-- embarrassed by my petty beliefs and shamed by my view of the Father. 

And when I learn Who God truly is and I understand who I truly am, I am in awe of His graciousness toward me.  I realize that He, indeed, is strong enough.

This submission process includes sitting long and lovingly at His feet, learning of His character directly through His Word and through good books like The Knowledge of the Holy (A.W. Tozer) and The Holiness of God (R.C. Sproul) and Lies Women Believe (Nancy Leigh DeMoss), and studies like Breaking Free by Beth Moore.  It includes self-talk that sounds like craziness to the thinker but which transpires either audibly or silently like this, “I feel like God has abandoned me, but the Truth is that God says He will never leave me nor forsake me”(Deuteronomy 31:6) and “I feel like snapping at my husband because he was insensitive, but the Truth is that no unwholesome words are to come out of my mouth, but only what is helpful…”(Ephesians 4:29).  Obviously, this thinking with Truth can only happen if I have exposed myself to Truth by frequent study and memorization.  Memorization is so important for the feeler.  It is the way that I have found to fend off the flaming arrows (disguised as strong and influential feelings) of the evil one (Ephesians 6).

So there you have it folks, we feelers have a lot of work to do, but through God’s power, we are able.  Our feelings were created to give God—not ourselves—glory and if we use them--not HIM-- as our compass, we will fail.  Feelings, like everything else, can be beautiful and wholesome and God-like, but only when they are submitted to God Himself.  We feelers are not mistakes God failed to correct.  We are a reflection of a facet of His very personality.  And when we use our feelings to enhance and enlarge our view of His Kingdom rather than to build our own little worlds, He will give us the joy we so crave.  Stay tuned.

Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Monday, November 11, 2013

Confessions of a Reformed Feeler: Part 2

I want to start this post by addressing some comments I received regarding “Confessions of a Reformed Feeler—Part 1”.  First, I am not writing these posts to suggest that thinkers are superior and problem-free; they’re not.  They have their own special struggles and sin issues which I could discuss by talking about what I have observed (since I live with a thinker), but, since I have so little personal knowledge of the weaknesses of the thinking crowd, I will leave that guest post for one of you thinking types. I am just writing from the perspective of someone who so idolized the guidance of my feelings that I was extremely lopsided and needed to learn some “thinker” characteristics. Here’s one thing of which I am certain though—we are all imperfect and in need of a Savior.  Praise God for Jesus.

 Secondly, I am writing from personal experience of being guided primarily by my feelings not by truth, and some of you feelers may not relate since your motivations are guided more evenly by your feelings and your mind. If you are more mature than I was or you were taught to control your emotions in childhood, you may see these posts as inaccurate.  But for those of us who are the highest on the feeler scale, I think much in these posts will ring true.

Third, another reader asked how to help a feeler if you are not supposed to tell them what they are doing wrong.  When I wrote “Feelers don’t need to be told what they are doing wrong.  They are keenly aware of their failings. To a feeler, their failings make them failures”, I guess I meant that when I am already wallowing in guilt and shame from something I have done or thought or said, I don’t need my thinking friends to continue to show me my guilt.  I do, however, need those same thinkers to ask me how I feel about my mistake and what I think I should do next.  I need them to help me come up with a plan of attack so that I don’t fall into the same pit again.  And I need them to help me do all these things when I am not in the heat of it all—when some of the emotion has abated.  And for the feeler who is unaware of their weaknesses (I think you will find this to be very rare), they may need a gentle feeler to come alongside them and ask some leading questions like, “What do you feel like you are doing well?” and “Where do you feel a little out of control?” and “What are some things you don’t like about yourself?” This kind of gentle prodding will help the feeler open up and begin to reflect upon areas of strength and areas of struggle. Always ask a feeler how you can be praying for them.  Feelers (and everyone else) need lots of prayer.  Also, if you are a thinker, make sure to befriend feelers—even if they scare you.  To be balanced and wise, feelers need thinker friends. 

And finally, one reader asked if I ever felt like I might be going crazy.  YES, I often felt psychotic. High feelers often feel like they might be going insane.  They can see what kind of person they would like to be and they know the God’s rules and boundaries, but they just can’t seem to get themselves to think and act and behave the way they are supposed to.  Their spouses and friends seem to be able to control their will and emotions, but the strong will of an extreme feeler has a life all of it’s own.  I used to say that when I got angry or felt something was unfair, it was as if a separate being took over and made me rant, rage, and go into a Tasmanian devil-like spin.  Once I started into that spin, there was no stopping the leading of my will.  Now I know that we are all capable of great wickedness and it is only by the grace of God that we have any self-control.  Once I had accepted Jesus as my Savior, and once He placed his Holy Spirit in me, I had everything I needed to control myself, I just didn’t know how to take hold of that power.  But as my understanding of my renewed mind (Romans 12:2) increased, I started implementing new ways of operating.  Basically, I told my will that Christ—not it—was in control.  In Matthew 16:24-24, Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.”  It was only after I started denying my own will and giving up control of my own life that I really found True Life…Real Life…Freedom.  And it was only then that I realized I was not crazy—my emotions may have been, but they no longer defined me—because the Christ that was in me had the upper hand.  I think that’s what the Bible means when it says we are to hide ourselves in Him…because it’s in the shelter of the Most High where I can truly be at rest (Psalm 91:1).

I welcome your comments and questions and will try to address them in my future posts.

“Until the will and the affections are brought under the authority of Christ, we have not begun to understand, let alone accept, His Lordship” 
~Elisabeth Elliot

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?”            
Luke 6:46

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Confessions of a Reformed Feeler: Part 1

I think the breakthrough came when I finally got over myself.

I used to really struggle with feelings of rage and bitterness and unforgiveness.  The key word here is feelingsI held my feelings close to me like a warm fuzzy blanket.  They were my barometer for my happiness and a holding tank for all the slights I received.  My feelings determined the way I analyzed how you treated me.  If you regularly hurt my feelings, you were bad and I despised you.  If you often made me feel good, you were perfect and easily forgiven.  Looking back, I can see that my feelings had been my idol since childhood.  I didn’t always like what I felt, but my emotions were strong and I felt powerless to change them.  Sometimes, I felt superior because my feelings produced in me great joy that was unattainable to my thinking friends.  But at other times, I felt shame for the powerful moods I experienced (and got in trouble for) because they made me into someone I never intended to be.  When this shame was directed inward at myself, rather than upward to God, it produced in me contempt towards those who hurt me.  When I carried this contempt around long enough, it turned to bitterness and despair.  This despair gave me no hope for change.  Many times, when in this despair, I felt such self-hatred that I just wanted to hide from life.  I wanted to disappear. I questioned why God had made me this way.

Feelers like me feel trapped by their personalities.  They are often proud and self-centered people who wish they weren’t this way.  They are proud because they can feel and sense and intuit things that their thinking peers cannot.  They can reach mountain top highs when things are good, but they can also descend into seemingly inescapable pits when their feelings are used only to glorify themselves.  And they are self-centered because their entire world is arranged around how they perceive things.  Feelers don’t always like operating by their emotions, but they don’t seem to have any other option.  It is as if God built them with one operating system, but no upgrades are available—so they keep on using what they know and what is comfortable to them.  When a thinker tries to change a feeler by saying, “Just change and act this way”, the feeler would often love to comply but doesn’t understand how to do that. In their mind, they don’t know how to try because the only language they have spoken up to this point is feelings.  Thinking through their responses seems undoable—a foreign language to them.

Oftentimes, high feelers (people who function primarily by emotions) will resent  thinkers because life seems so much easier and more clear for the thinker.  Thinkers seem to be able to make logical decisions and comply with them, while the feeler must use every ounce of strength he can muster just to remain in neutral. Life is very complex for the feeler and they often feel betrayed by their natural reactions because these reactions lead them into sin.

When I was trapped in my emotions, I needed lots of grace; lots and lots of grace.  Especially when I didn’t deserve it.  Luckily, God provided me with a husband who gave that to me.  Because Brent believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself, I was able to trust him when I couldn’t trust myself.  During this dark time in my life, Brent was a little picture of Jesus to me.  He forgave me when I hurt him and helped me crawl out of the pit into which I had fallen.  Every feeler needs someone who believes in them—someone who will not judge them.  Feelers don’t need to be told what they are doing wrong.  They are keenly aware of their failings. To a feeler, their failings make them failures. 

So, I guess what I want to say to my thinking friends is this:  For a very long time, I was caught up in my self and my feelings. I was completely consumed with my moods, my circumstances, and my comfort level.  I was not fun to be around…but I knew no other way.  Then God came in and rescued me and released me from this prison.  He instructed me through His word when He said... 
“Do not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, then you will be ABLE TO TEST AND APPROVE WHAT GOD’S WILL IS, His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) 
And I was set free.  Not free to never struggle with my emotions, but free to use the renewed mind that God had placed within me when I accepted Him as my Savior—the mind that I didn’t even know I had!  I was now able to use this renewed mind to govern my emotions, rather than letting my emotions govern my mind.  My feelings were no longer my masters!  I was set free from myself!

I say all of this to help you understand your feeling friends and to give you some insight into their struggles.  There are things that you, as a thinker, can do to help…or to hurt…your feeling friends and loved ones. Check in later this week to learn how to extend unconditional love to people who long for freedom from themselves.  Or if you are a feeler like me, discover how you can gain mastery over the rouge emotions that master you.

And remember thinking friends, we need you. Please be gentle with us.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:36