Engaging Emotion

Page1 blog entry72 emotion

Good afternoon bloggers,

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You are at a Christian conference or concert or something, and a speaker is beginning to land his message. His whole desire is to get those in the audience to make a life commitment to Jesus, to offer themselves fully to the God of the Universe and to fall on his grace. And then, out of nowhere, you begin to hear a orchestra playing really sappy music. The strings would ebb and flow in time with the speakers dramatic dialogue and reading of scriptures. And then at last, as the orchestra reached its climax, the speaker would invite everyone who wanted to dedicate or rededicate their lives to Christ to come down to be prayed for/with. Teary eyed teenagers would rush the stage, overwhelmed with emotion.

And typically, I the cynical youth worker, stand in the back of the room with my arms crossed, disgusted at what I'm witnessing. Not that kids are committing their lives to Christ, that's always a welcomed and exciting thing. What disgusts me is that someone has manipulated what we in the audience are feeling. The song, the tone of speech, the lighting, the atmosphere, are all designed to convince the listener to have an emotional reaction to what's being said. When I see it happening, I almost always ask myself if Jesus needs this kind of manipulation on our parts to win the hearts of teenagers. Shouldn't Christ alone be enough?

Emotion is part of the Christian experience, for sure. But for me, it was the part I wanted to rely on least. I mean, as a big, tough, good looking, macho guy (stop laughing) admitting that you have feelings is almost seen as a sign of weakness. Plus as a leader of students, I don't want to be the kind of guy who manipulates emotion. It's there, but I just don't talk about it or think on it too much.

Marko, as is often the case, had a great post yesterday about spiritual auto pilot. I'll admit, I was about to write about the same thing today. I think I made it through the whole Lent and Easter season without truly engaging who God is in my own life. I mean, I do a lot of reading for work and for seminary. But I wasn't in it. My heart wasn't in it. I wasn't engaging God emotionally.

And while I don't think I'll ever be on board with people who manipulate the emotions of teenagers (or other audiences for that matter), this morning I've spent some time reflecting on what it looks like to love God with all my heart, not just with my mind and soul and strength. What does it look like to own up to my sin-stained heart, and to offer it to Jesus just as it is? Even claiming to love God is an emotion response, one that my stereotypical reasoning Presbyterian mind doesn't want to open up to.

And so this week, I'm going to engage in my emotional response to God. What suggestions do you have for engaging emotions? How about teaching youth to engage with God emotionally?