I have spent a lot of time recently wondering what the source of my discontentment and lack of motivation is. My mind wanders too quickly for me to narrowly focus on anything, especially that which seems to be most important, that which requires my most narrow of focuses.
I wander to the plotlines of television shows that have recently peaked my interest, to conspiracy theories, politics, the earth, my anger, everyone I would very much like to tell off; I wander to pity parties I’ve thrown for myself, complete with a ballooned sense of self and a soundtrack of sad songs playing through my mind to boot.
Nothing seems to be able to keep me still and quiet.
I cannot seem to stay long enough to even position myself to sit quietly before and hear from God.
For this most important of times in the day to day and in the eternal to eternal—I cannot quiet down and listen long enough to take my mind from myself.
Why can’t I pay attention?
I stumbled across quite a bulls-eye answer this morning—why I cannot seem to pay attention and the reasons my mind has recently seemed completely uninterested in things of eternal value.
C.S. Lewis wrote from the perspective of a chief demon on the subject of prayer, and insightfully (albeit in a radically convicting manner) recorded:
“…he [a Christian] may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularized; and what this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional mood in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part… and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practiced by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy’s service, clever and lazy patients can be taken in by it for quite a long time.”
I did not begin crying when I read these words, but I was startlingly close. My stomach clenched tightly and has failed to lose tension as I ruminate on the implications of such an intense prospect that is the way in which I have been viewing prayer for years.
As much as I would like to say there is no basis of my relationship with Creator that is founded on the emotional—I suppose years of listening to songs talk about “feeling” God really got through to me, though. I cannot, however, blame Christian culture for such a disposition as mine, for I have known that mine is a predisposal to sit or dance in my emotional experiences with no discipline to quietly wait and know life and reality apart from slavery to emotions.
I have astounded myself within the realization of how quick I am to stumble. But it shouldn’t be so much of a surprise when I have so obviously, at least to myself, fallen in to the pattern of getting off my knees and closing my Bible when I just don’t feel quite right because, of course, I need to be absolutely perfectly in every good and lovely state of mind, or more narrowly in every good and perfect state of emotion.
It seems I have easily fallen prey to the whimsical, random sway of the human mind—but God does not sit and wait only in the emotional experience, He is in the midst of depression, anxiousness, uncertainty, in the “not feeling it”, and every state of being imaginable (excluding that of the absence of His presence).
There is so much ease to falling in to the emotional sway—it requires no planning or set aside time on the part of the experiencer. The emotional is often more memorable because the mind so readily captures that intensity.
But how little faithfulness is required of only being made available in the feelings. How easily swayed to other ideas and the random notions of the world we become when there is no consistency, when there is no commitment or routine, yes, it becomes something like a game of chance to see where our souls land for the day.
Perhaps it will be on Jesus, but only perhaps.
Perhaps it will be on something entirely unrelated to Jesus.
Perhaps it will be on me.
I want to emphasize that I am not arguing in any way for legalism; that is, in fact, the danger of saying any of this at all—it would be quite simple to find myself in the routine of legalism, which is no better than emotional sway because either way, they both do not fall in to focusing on God but on me.
I think I can best explain what I want to really communicate by what Lewis writes in The Great Divorce, “No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.”
Perhaps it would be wise to grow roots.
Perhaps it could be of great benefit to establish a pattern of intentionality.
Perhaps it should be that we disregard the notion that the Love of God and the experience of Him is based entirely on emotions.
Perhaps it would be quite good to be reminded of all the Good God has done—all the Good He is.
Perhaps we would do best to inscribe His faithfulness on the corners of our bathroom mirrors and in little sticky notes on our dash boards and in ink on our forearms.
Yes, perhaps we might be reminded of His faithfulness and not become so swayed by that which seems the most Holy when we are missing the Holy everywhere else for the simple façade of intensity of emotion as the only way to truly experience God.
Perhaps we have confused intimacy for intensity of emotions—sometimes the greatest moments of intimacy come in those times of greatest trial, when the feeling seems to have disappeared completely, and yet faithfulness persists.
There is nothing wrong with feeling, of course, I feel more deeply than most people I know—but handle feelings lightly, they are not always true; we need more than feelings—we need Jesus.