I’m a professional pursuer of feelings. Spiritually, personally, relationally, the whole spectrum.
I’m good at believing something is true if it feels true to me. I’m an expert at making choices, toward others or myself, based on how it makes me feel. I’m an Olympic gold medalist in thinking emotion is the measure of devotion. Somewhere along the way, an idea started to grow in my young heart: it’s not okay not to be okay.
You keep yourself, everyone else and your relationship with God up, and you’re good. Being enough became
my life’s mission.
As you can imagine, that’s a hard thing for a young person to measure. Until you experience that unsettled, unpleasant, uncomfortable feeling of ‘not okay.’
Whether it was from the Enemy, my own flesh, the imperfect humans around me or the world’s pressure, once I got a taste of what I considered not okay, it becomes the worst flavor in the entire world and I learned to avoid it like the plague.
How, you may ask?
Well, by keeping the flavor good, happy, lovable.
positive feelings = good (maintain them, strive for them, cling to them)
negative feelings = bad (escape them, ignore them, run faster so they don’t catch you)
I felt into a belief system where feelings dictated worth, others’ toward me and mine towards myself. It took me YEARS to believe God also wasn’t using that measuring stick.
I was making a home in my feelings.
But, dear friend, as you know the title of this post, we are not to make homes of any kind here on earth. Right? The Bible refers to us as pilgrims. Jesus calls us to follow Him, not our feelings.
I want to invite you on my journey of learning what it means to be a pilgrim in the land of emotions.
A word from C.S. Lewis to set the tone:
“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with out friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
Our feelings are indicators, not dictators. They are God-given and reasons for rejoicing and not to be shamed. They help us process life but they are not prophets of our future. They are pleasant inns or grueling battles or long desert walks, but they are not home.
We have to start with a definition, right? What does it mean to be a pilgrim? Let’s go with an official one and then others I’ve come across over the years.
Webster’s Dictionary defines pilgrim as a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons;
a person who travels on long journeys; a person regarded as journeying through life.
Confession: When I think of a pilgrim lifestyle, the first person I think of is Frodo Baggins (thanks to my
husband, John). And then I think about Pilgrim’s Progress. And then Jesus. (Oops?)
To me, the pilgrim way, (the pilgrim heart?), is one of simplicity, of holding things loosely, of admiring and
absorbing life more fully, of sacrifice and battling, of sensitivity to the Father’s voice. It’s cultivating relational roots more than physical ones. It’s prizing treasures of heart and mind more than fabric or metal ones. It’s a
free and light posture, flexible and strong without unnecessary weight. It’s a pace set by Christ, the One
A pilgrim’s ultimate identification is ‘this is not my home, I am passing through,’ right?
In the land of our feelings, living the pilgrim way means I treat everything from sadness to boredom to joy as an encounter on the road. What I choose to do with it matters.
Maybe this will help. Let use our imaginations for a moment. Frodo and Sam, the Pevensie kids in Narnia, whatever you fancy.
Jesus promised to be with us always, so you and Christ (maybe even the companions God has given you)
are walking along.
Do you make camp in the great fog of self-pity?
Do you run into the castle of ease and forget your companion(s) entirely?
Do you lay down and allow the hungry bear of envy to finish you off?
Do you strike out on your own in the dark forest of doubt?
I can’t actually know what your answers are, but I’m going to tell you mine — No. To each of these.
The answer to those questions is simple, isn’t it? None of those imaginary journey scenarios would be easy, but it wouldn’t be difficult to 1, stay close to Jesus (the best answer against such obvious dangers) and 2, believe that the destination is far better and no encounter could stop you from wanting to continue on.
Why, then, do we allow our feelings to derail us so easily? Why, then, do we so easily believe the lean-to we’ve built at the river of worry or hillside of acceptance is better than our true Home? Why, then, do we run ahead of the Lord or lag far behind, thinking He’s not enough for the moment where out feet are, or to get us where we need (or want) to go?
An imaginary you on an imaginary journey with imaginary battles and various terrain and charms along the way, would never willingly venture away from Jesus and the path to run full speed into danger, right?
We might be doing it though, when it comes to emotions.
So let’s talk about it.
This is an idea I’d love to flesh out here, being a pilgrim in the land of our feelings. Stay tuned. :)