Day 1: Our Feelings Are Holy
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it,”
-Psalm 139:1-6 NRSV
“God doesn’t care about our happiness. God cares about our holiness.” A closeted member of our LGBTQ+ family recited these words to me. I knew they had learned this idea somewhere in the Church. I knew because I had, too, when I was fighting hard to reconcile my faith and sexuality. My friend was echoing an experience that all too many of us have within many faith community spaces: the demonization of our emotions, feelings, and experiences.
Queer, Transgender, People of Color, and women know this demonization all too well as many of us have been repeatedly abused by the Church by being told that our feelings, emotions, and experiences are not reliable things to trust, not important, or that they don’t matter to God, they are not valid. According to some Church teaching, emotions are potentially damaging ways to be directed and if we allow this we allow chaos and sin to rule over our lives. You may have also been taught that we should never project our emotion onto Biblical text, that we can never read Scripture through the lens of our pain, discomfort, or anguish. We can never experience the liberty in our identities that we wish. We can only experience liberty the way the Church decides for us and ingrains into us.
The tremendous problem with this ideology is that it is extremely counterintuitive to not only what the stories in the Bible actually tell us, but also to what the characters within the Bible demonstrate to us, including Jesus. The Bible is a very emotional collection of texts. The various genres within it contain everything from lament, complaint, instruction, prophecy, novellas, burlesque, praise, thanksgiving, apocalyptic, poetry, etymology, erotica, death, anguish, joy, peace, etc. It’s about real people experiencing life and trying to make sense of it.
Some churches try to rob our communities of our emotional responses to life, church, and our understanding of Scripture. They claim that we project our emotions and feelings onto the text in order to make it say what we wish. They claim that listening to our emotions and being guided by our feelings will lead us further away from the truth.
This is a misguided attempt to “sin-manage” your life. But stifling what God gives naturally in order to make people conform to the Church’s desires is never directed by God. On the contrary, our emotions are authoritative, beautiful, wonderful. They are imbedded within us by the Living God.
In Psalm 139, the Psalter tells us that we are “fearfully” made by God––every single part of us. This term, in the original Hebrew, means “to revere” and “to be in awe.” That is how amazing our emotions and feelings are––they evoke awe and reverence because we are God’s masterpiece. We are the highlight of God’s creation. We are the encore.
Living God, as we journey through this series championing the emotions, feelings, and experiences you have created us with, help us to hold space for even the most challenging ones. Help us to hold ourselves and others in compassion over our emotions and feelings. Teach us how to embrace and utilize our emotion and feeling for wisdom, to love others, to love ourselves, and to love you.