Warning: Today’s post is the devotional “speech” I am giving to the ladies at Morning Break (our ladies outreach program) with fear and trepidation… What you can’t see is that I’m carrying on our “Holy Estrogen” theme and I’m dressed as Hot Lips Houlighan (from M*A*S*H)!
How can a child turn from a beautiful cherub to an arm-crossed, foot-stomping, screwed-up faced monster? Go ahead and laugh at the question I just posed. In case you didn’t realize it, I was talking about you and me. When we demand our own way emotionally, and refuse to guard our hearts and our tongues, that’s exactly what we become. It’s easy to love the Lord when our lives have a little white picket fence with seasonal flowers blooming all around, but the moment God asks us to do something difficult (or someone tromps on those flowers), we screw up our faces and stomp our feet too.
You are NOT Schizophrenic! But you may be a Soul Out of Control, and today, I’m tackling our emotional instability head-on!
To start, I have two terms I need to identify – we have both a soul and a spirit. Both are God-given and are part of our inner make-up that allows us to live an abundant life and to reflect God’s glory and character. But when these two things are acting outside God’s authority, well that’s when we become emotional trolls – there’s nothing pretty about it!
Our spirit is the part of us that sees and understands eternal things. We couldn’t walk by faith and not by sight without it. It is the part of us that God’s Spirit influences; it is the part that hears God. Our soul, on the other hand, is the seat of our personality, feelings, desires, affections, and aversions. It is our emotional response to life, and therefore, if all of our efforts focus on earthly pleasure and emotional desire, our souls get out of control. I’m not saying it’s wrong to feed our souls healthy and unpolluted pleasures in life, like spending time with family or getting a manicure (if that’s something you like to do), but our main focus should be on our spirit.
This Fall, some of the ladies in my Bible study group started training together. Our goal (if we survive) is a Tough Mudder event (or something similar). For those who don’t know what that is – it’s an obstacle course in the mud…designed by the British army! Now this may not sound like your idea of a good time but stick with me – there’s an analogy here…the training part, not the mud (although when we lose control, we can sling mud at others pretty effectively). If you desire to develop a strong spirit to take charge of your emotions and your life, with God’s help (we can’t do it in our strength), then you will need 4 things in your life: a nutritious diet, exercise program, a new wardrobe, and a support system.
Start with a healthy, charged diet – you must read your Bible every day to strengthen your muscles and increase your spirit’s ability to endure. Our Bibles are not just for information, but to allow God to teach us, to speak to us, and to transform us. You may be groaning already but trust me – been there, done that, persevered, can’t live without it!
Here’s a story from the author: Carol was blessed with a boisterous, “life of the party” best friend, Debby. Every morning, Debby’s alarm clock went off at 5:30 a.m. and her friend got up and read her Bible. Fast-forward years – Debby’s husband died in an accident, leaving her a widow at the age of 50. The next morning, God met with her, as He had often done before, in her Bible reading:
Debbie wrote, “I got up early knowing that I had a long and painful day ahead of me. My house was filling up with out of town relatives and we had to make funeral plans for my dear husband. I looked at my chart of where I was reading that day and then opened to I Chronicles, chapters 1-8. As I began to read my Bible, I discovered that the entire reading assignment for that day was dead people’s names! It was eight solid chapters of nothing but begats. There was no encouragement, no revelation knowledge, and no call to worship. I began to weep and demanded an answer from the Lord, Whom I had served my entire life, ‘God, you knew that Steve would be in heaven today without me! You knew that I would open my Bible this morning and turn to I Chronicles 1-8! Where are you, God? Why couldn’t I be reading in Psalms…”
As Debby waited for God to respond, He reminded her, “That’s right! I did know that you would need Me today in an extraordinary way. I knew that you would need to hear My voice and I have you right where I want you in the Bible. I wanted to remind you that people are important to Me and that each person lives a life of value in my sight. Steve was important to Me and so are you”.
God will meet with us on the worst day of our lives, and speak strength and hope into our spirits through His Word. I read my Bible nearly every day and even though not every day holds a power-infusing, radical, life-changing “woo hoo” conversation with God, He does speak to me and He does bless me for my faithfulness. If we aren’t feeding our spirits every day, then we are feeding our souls. Those empty calories from the junk-food buffet of emotional outbursts or the fast-food menu of the culture around you gives your soul control and you will lead a life of self-loathing and destruction.
The second way to grow your Spirit is to exercise it by praying without ceasing. Please note: I said pray without ceasing, not whine without ceasing! So many of us spend our lives whining and complaining at God, and then wonder why our prayers are never answered. For one thing – it’s a one-way conversation. For another, our soul will always strive to turn our prayer life into a pity party. When you pray, come into God’s presence with joy, with praise, and with boldness. Don’t be afraid to spend time there silently. God doesn’t require us to fill every moment of silence with idle chatter. Pray often and pray believing that God hears and God answers. If you’re not sure if you believe that – ask God to help you believe it! I try to pray on my knees with my face on the floor every morning – sometimes I’m there for 2 minutes and sometimes it’s 2 hours. My point is not “look how good I am” because trust me, I can be a basket case with the best of you! My point is that I am making God and prayer a priority. God understands schedules, but He wants your heart, and if that means 2 minutes sitting on a toilet behind a locked bathroom door while your kids are pounding on it – do it! Your spirit needs feeding, even if at this stage of life, it’s only a nibble!
The third thing is a new wardrobe – I’m not talking about running shoes and yoga pants (which, by the way, were advertised as slimming and they are not!). I could talk about this one for hours – worship! Worship, like prayer, is something that can done throughout the day – sing in the shower, listen to music in your car, look around you when you’re out walking and admire God’s handiwork. There are too many spiritually anorexic Christians who only sing on Sunday morning. Worship is about telling God how much you adore him. Remember that feeling when you first became someone’s sweetheart (and they called it Puppy Love) – that’s how Jesus feels about you and me, and when I think about Jesus, when I start telling Him how I feel about Him, I get that incredible gooey feeling. But unlike human relationships, I will have that feeling for eternity! As we worship God, even in our worst days or situation, He can remake us by removing our clothes stained with disappointment and heartaches (and emotional meltdowns), and clothing us with a garment of praise. Our spirits will grow stronger, and our souls will stay in check.
And finally, we all need a support system – to encourage us and to keep us accountable! That can come in the form of fellowship in a church, a Bible study group, or a friend. God knows we can’t survive as solo Christians; we need to huddle in faith next to someone. If you don’t have someone, pray for someone, actively seek someone out. There’s a good chance that there is someone out there who needs you, just as much as you need them! God made us social creatures!
Just like my Mudder training, it will require effort, discipline, and perseverance (even though you may be inwardly groaning), and forgiveness (at some point you will be tempted to cheat or slack off, like a diet, you’ll fall off the wagon.) Don’t give up! Brush yourself off and get moving again. We serve a God who believes strongly in second and third, and 83rd chances…)
References: “Holy Estrogen!” by Carol McLeod © 2011, Harrison House Publishers Inc., Tulsa, OK