Confessions of a Feelings Person

Last night’s sermon was on I John 1, with the preacher encouraging us to take God up on his promise, reminding us that confession is a positive thing, a chance to get rid of stuff that’s getting in the way, leave it with God and move on.

I knew there was stuff I needed to deal with in that way. Now, here’s where it got interesting:

The preacher was inviting us at the end of his sermon to do this here and now, in the quiet of our own hearts to confess to God whatever it is that we need to. But he didn’t give us that quiet – this is something I’ve seen so often, it’s one of my pet peeves, when they talk about having a time of quiet to talk to God about something and then they just keep on talking, and maybe give you half a minute’s silence at the end.

Usually when this happens, I just think: there’s no way I can do this here and now because you’re not giving me the time I need, so I’ll do it at home. And usually – guess what – it doesn’t happen. Putting something off till later means it’s a lot less likely that I will actually get round to it – that’s not just in my prayer life, that’s just how I am generally.

But last night I had this sense of urgency – I knew I’d come there with something that was weighing me down and I knew I needed to get rid of it, and in my head there was this loud thought (which is how God sometimes speaks to me): just do it and trust that it’s done, you don’t have to fully get into it, you don’t have to feel it, it’s just a transaction that needs to take place – tell God about that stuff and trust that he will forgive you and cleanse you. (I’m totally paraphrasing here, this isn’t word for word what I heard in my mind at the time.)

So I did it. And I got up today feeling lighter and full of hope and the joys of spring, feeling totally ready to tackle things head on and to make a fresh start. Because God is faithful and he does what he said he would do, and this doesn’t depend on me being able to totally engage with the process – I couldn’t fully engage with the process with that guy constantly talking, but I could talk to God over this guy’s voice. If you phone a pizza company and the line is a bit crackly and you can’t hear them very well, they’ll still deliver your pizza as long as they can hear you. This confession thing – it’s not so much about me engaging with it, it’s about God hearing it and acting.

I realise that part of why I struggle with this sort of thing is because I am a Feelings person, I’m someone for whom the emotions are the main event, and if I do something without engaging emotionally it seems to me less valid, less real. This affects my prayer life in that I have an expectation that any time I pray, I’ll engage emotionally. Which is not a realistic expectation, and I have to keep fighting against it because if I let it, it can stifle me and get me to pray a lot less. If in my mind prayer means closing my eyes and totally focusing on God and really feeling his presence before I even start saying anything, and only saying stuff that I really feel – that means I’m more likely to neglect praying, I’m in danger of keeping prayer for those special times when I can really totally get into it, which means losing touch with God during busy times when I can’t do that. It also means a whole load of people or issues that I neglect praying about because I can’t put that level of emotion into each and every one.

So I’m trying to learn a healthy balance: yes, once in a while it’s great to just sit quietly and focus on God and really feel his presence. It’s one of the awesomest things ever. But in day-to-day life I have to incorporate all sorts of ways of praying, not just my favourite ones. There are times for sitting down to a delicious, slow-cooked meal and savouring every bite; but there are times for a quick snack, a sandwich or a salad or a piece of fruit. There are times for sitting with a dear friend and enjoying a leisurely time at a nice cafe, but there are also times when you send a quick email or SMS or make a brief phone call. Life is full of the need for compromises.

And God hears me whenever I speak to him. He doesn’t need me to get emotional, he just wants me to communicate with him, to be open and real with him, and to trust him and be willing to obey him. The Bible tells me to love God, but that’s not about a fuzzy emotional kind of love. Jesus said: if you love me you will obey my commandments. When we love someone, we want to please them, we want to make them happy. But I digress. Here ends my rambly confession.

8 thoughts on “Confessions of a Feelings Person

  1. It’s important to leave enough white space for pople to fill with their own thoughts, especially in conversation.

    I’m curious… when you talk about feeling His presence, what’s that sensation? When you send your prayerful SMS do you get a delivery confirmation in your heart?

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    • oh, yes, it’s just that some people aren’t so aware of the need for white space. Some are even scared of it :/
      I know from my own experience how scary it feels to leave a gap when you’re leading something like this, the silence feels eternal and there’s a voice in your head that says you should be saying something… but I’ve also learned from experience what amazing stuff can happen when you force yourself to sit on your hands and leave the silence a bit longer than you’re comfortable with…

      I’m loving your questions, Max, and am hesitant to try and answer because I know that whatever I say will fall way way short of describing it – think of your favourite yummy thing and imagine if someone who has never seen or tasted it asks you to describe what it’s like… or if you’re asked to describe a particular shade of blue, or the most awesome sunset you’ve seen… feeling God’s presence is just so amazing and wonderful and I could try and throw words around it and maybe touch a teensy bit of what it’s like… I could say it’s like being held in the most loving hug, it fills me with peace at a level that just defies adjectives, I’m in the presence of someone who knows me through and through and who loves me totally, overwhelmingly. I’m really running out of words…

      And keeping in touch with him all the time – it means I can keep getting plugged in and getting more of his peace, like some kind of wireless charger that you can use wherever you are. Those SMS-type prayers – when I just kind of inwardly look in his direction for a moment in the middle of stuff and say something like “help, daddy” or “look what’s happening to those people there” or “please can you do something about that person’s crisis” – yes, I get a delivery confirmation in my heart, I know he’s heard me and whatever it was that was worrying me, it’s off my plate now and he’s going to deal with it.

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  2. Amen!
    I, for one, could not make it through a moment, w/o the constant contact! Every thought a prayer. Every moment, knowing I am “engaged with God” and that it does not depend in the slightest about my feelings; and yet knowing that He knows me and we can talk about my feelings and He can help me with my feelings, and other people’s feelings and he-said-she-said, and all the everything about everything.
    Which keeps me “hidden in the secret place of the Most High” (see Psalm 91) and walking around with Shalom, in every situation.
    Grace to you, and peace, dear sister!

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  3. Meirav, this has such resonance for me. I too often fail to walk in freedom because I am waiting for the feelings. I am resolved to walk more by faith. Todah!

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