Feelings change, God doesn't. So if feelings change they aren't a good thing to put our faith in, right?
I can remember hearing time and time again through childhood and into adulthood, "Don't live by your feelings. . ." Almost like one of the Ten Commandments or something; it stuck with me like glue.
All in all, I can see biblical basis for that. Faith or living by something that is fickle is a shaky place. I couldn't argue each time I was told not to place any clout in my feelings. It seemed practical, smart, and I couldn't deny that my feelings flip-flopped now and then and weren't trust worthy. Feelings are often just selfish right? How often have we heard or been put down for getting our feelings hurt? In fact, at least for me, I had the impression it was a sin to get my feelings hurt. That was bitterness, right? And that would kill you or give you cancer and make you a mean person, and ugly. . .
Getting your feelings hurt was idolatry. . . yeah. . . expecting something from someone that only God could supply.
Well. That's all true. Or most of it.
I've had some personal debates, me with me on the issue in the last few years -- not because I trust all the feelings I have, but because I have too often fallen in the ditch of denying I have any, discard the ones that needed to be dealt with, and even had feelings I wish I had followed but ignored because after all, they were just feelings, right? Even more, being a parent my heart sank each time I heard myself denying my children their feelings and watching the results.
Reflecting back on my first years of parenting I can hear myself telling the boys, "Don't cry. You may not cry over that. . ." or "You are wrong to get angry. Don't get angry. . ." or "Calm down, you are being way too excited over that. . ."
Or whatever. Constantly, really, discarding their feelings. Spiritualizing everything and ignoring their humanness, their hurts, their feelings, the emotions in life that they faced in every situation and circumstance that came their way.
Basically, to put it in another way, I was training my boys to only stay at surface level relationship with me.
The talk-about-the-weather-type-stuff because to go deeper, to have feelings, well -- that's uncomfortable, sometimes loud, sometimes embarrassing and even other times, yeah, just makes you worry your kids aren't where you think they should be. To hear they might feel things aren't great, or they are sad, confused, tired, hurting, angry, disbelieving, don't understand something maybe even about God or the Bible -- those feelings, those emotions, they can make a mother's heart worry and make us feel we need to fix them, or fix something. And we have enough to fix.
Sometimes we know we can't fix anything.
Several years back I remember sitting listening to a mother of many kids talking to a group of us about parenting. She had all the "answers" on having the most well behaved kids. Inwardly, my feelings felt like it was all off. It didn't feel right. I felt like it wasn't right, but then, maybe those were rebellious feelings? Maybe hearing her speak made me feel like a failure as a parent since my kiddos were obviously not perfect?
One of the things she was teaching was how if your child cried when disciplined or wanted something you were to put your finger to your mouth and say, "Hush. Hush." Look them straight in the eye and hush them. The child was to learn to hush on command and peace would be resumed. It was all about "obedience." Crying was not allowed.
I picture a coke bottle that has been shook with the top on, the top coming off the coke going everywhere and then forcing the top instantly back on. What a mess.
Being a young mom with young kids and wanting to be a "good christian parent" I taught my boys the hush thing. I know, glare at me right now. Ridiculous. But we all have honestly wanted to do what was right by our kids and bought into some pretty stupid stuff along the way. The key is asking God to show us quick when we've done that so we can repent to our children and correct our own unloving ways towards them. Even if they were well intended.
Sometimes though we are deceived and the intent is actually selfish on our part as the parent.
Years later I want to cringe at the thought of even hushing them. Not that there isn't a place for correcting a whiney, controlling child who wants all the gum in the check out line, and granted, teaching children self-control is something that will be a blessing and asset to them the rest of their lives. . .
But wow, how different I see things.
I want my children to express feelings!!! I am glad they have them. I want to hear them. I want to help them. I want to cry with them. I want to get so overly excited with them that I'm bouncing off the walls! I want to hear and know (and not worry) when things aren't going great. I don't want to raise them hushing. Stuffed up. A coke bottle that someday will blow.
When they share their feelings I don't want to put on a face that says, "I disapprove," or "You worry me," (another way of saying, "I say I trust Jesus but I really don't!") or "How awful that you feel that way!" I want to connect with their feelings.
I don't want to instantly blurt out, "You shouldn't live by your feelings. . ."
On a practical level - this just happened this very afternoon:
Lake didn't want to take a nap. She was being mean to everyone though and when she gets like that I know a nap is typically the answer because she is yes, not being nice, but she is also very tired. I'm not so nice when I'm really tired either. So I walk her back for a nap and she is crying all the way. I put her in her bed, kiss her and tuck her under the covers and I say, "Are you sad about taking a nap?"
She says, "Yes, it makes me sad." Crying all the while.
I say, "I know it makes you sad but it is good for you and you are learning to obey."
She says matter fact, "But I don't want to obey."
I hug her, she is not crying anymore, and I say, "I know you don't want to obey. Our hearts without Jesus don't ever want to obey. Mommy without Jesus giving her strength doesn't like to obey either. It's hard to obey, isn't it?"
She says, "Yes."
I say, "Lake, let's pray that God will help you and me to obey. Let's ask Him to give us hearts that love Jesus."
And so we do. She is not asleep yet, I can hear her in her bed singing the ABC's, but she is obeying and not crying.
We acknowledged her feelings, not shamed them. I put myself in her shoes and I have no reason to get upset or angry. We talked about her feelings, letting her know they can't control us, but they are real and it's okay to be real. It's also right and okay to take our feelings to God and ask Him to help us when our feelings aren't right.
I've not got this down, but in the last several years God has been really working on me in this area. One, to deal with my own feelings correctly.
Alyssa, it's okay to cry. Strength and spirituality aren't lack of natural human emotions. Cry. Say, "I can't do this!" and "I feel hurt! Help!"
Secondly, to let what God has been healing me in - to pass this onto my children so that they don't have to deal with the same consequences I have faced by discarding or shaming my feelings.
I'm amazed how children respond to parents who stop and treat their children how they would want to be treated. I have seen how children respond when shut down, ignored, or shamed for their feelings. I have seen how feelings go undercover, hide, or even control further when they are not dealt with properly. I have seen how this whole issue of not living by our feelings can become over spiritualized to the point of closing a child off to God instead of bringing him closer.
I want my children to be able to cry. Hurt. Get overly excited even, because they do and it's ridiculous sometimes! To have a wide range of feelings that they are free to express. I don't want a perfect little line up of kids that show no emotion and stay hushed. If they feel like they are about to bounce off the walls, let's figure out a way for them to do it. If they are hurt or selfish and that's why they are crying, then let's get it out.
Do I tell them they shouldn't live by their feelings? Yep. I do say that, but it comes much later after I've listened or cried with them and sympathized, and put myself in their shoes. Along with telling them their feelings aren't trustworthy though, I add that they are needful and what God often uses to draw us closer to Himself. Sometimes the very thing that helps them move on past a feeling that is selfish is acknowledging it together and loving them through it.
I tell them too that feelings need to be heeded! Sometimes what we mistake for just a feeling is actually the Holy Spirit prompting or warning us or even our children. There have been times where a child seemed to have feelings that weren't needful or were exaggerated. I don't dismiss those. Sometimes they have been dead on.
When Shelton was about three he was being babysat by someone he seemed to really not like being with. I dismissed it as his bad attitude, feelings, or disobedience. He went so far as to jump out of a moving car (granted it was just going down the driveway) to not obey this woman! Obviously this woman was not happy with Shelton and wanted him disciplined. There's nothing quite like a babysitter telling you she was trying to drive your son and he wouldn't get in the car with her or do what she said and jumped out of the car as it was driving! At three! What I knew was that Shelton's feelings needed to be not only acknowledged but investigated. He couldn't say much at that point, and even though he has the personality to jump from anything that is moving instead of disciplining him, I let his feelings stand because they were there for a reason.
I kind of laugh just thinking about it. All these years later, as truth has come to light, Shelton's feelings were right on the money.
We want to parent our children in such a way that they know (feel!) safe to share anything and any feeling with us. Even if the feeling isn't a good one. It will protect them.
Kind of a random post here after lunch. Just things I've been thinkin' about this past weekend. I will never be the perfect parent of course and my kids will grow up and have issues like all humans that walk this earth, but I do want to be intentionally seeking to love them the best I can despite my failures, weaknesses and things I bring into my own adulthood that spill out on them. I love that God redeems and that He came to save and help dysfunction in all of us.
He is good like that. He is so good that He knows all our feelings, loves us anyway, and draws us to Himself and changes our feelings too.