Let Choices Lead and Feelings Follow

Help! There’s a tornado whirlwind of jeans, tops, and dresses all over my bedroom! I cannot make up my mind on what to wear so I throw every article of clothing I feel like wearing in every direction of my bedroom. Can anyone relate?? I like the idea of wearing one blouse in my mind but I like how another shirt fits and feels better on my body. So I change. After walking out the door and realizing I’m not dressed for the weather, I change again. Then I feel like wearing different shoes because they look better with the new dress I put on. This probably goes on two or three more times. Then don’t get me started on my food options. I will probably feel three different ways about my lunch today when it comes time to chow down. There are so many feelings, no wonder our culture thrives on one of the scariest ideas floating around – that your feelings are truth.
feelings face
feelings faces – bernadinia
Our culture is saturated with feelings! Do not misinterpret this. Feelings are not bad. In fact, they were given to us by God. However, to allow our feelings to dictate what we do and how we identify ourselves in critical areas of our lives is deception and misaligned. Our culture believes that those desires, those urges, and those impulses are who you are. Live how you feel! Do what you want, when you want, and with whoever you want. Follow your heart! This is a horrible existence. The reality is this is not truth. Pastor Judah Smith stated it best, “Don’t follow your heart, question your heart.”

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Don’t follow your feelings. Most of the time we cannot identify our emotions or know what we want. How can we trust the roller coaster ride of our emotions dealing with God, people, careers, etc? Yet, it is a sad reality that the same approach we have towards what we’re going to eat and what we’re going to wear, is applied to other major areas in our lives. One of the best ways to safeguard our hearts and lead a life of decision is to understand that it starts with relationship. Here are three important areas of our lives where we can be a generation of people that choose to live by decision and will, not by emotion and frill. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!
  • Our Relationship with God
    • What if God responded to us out of His feelings? We would not be redeemed today! Someone once told me that they are waiting to feel God before they start following Him. Well, that is the wrong approach to our relationship with our Father in Heaven! Friends, let me tell you that our love for God is an act of the will and selfless surrender of ourselves. It is a decision. (James 4:8)
    • Love is a law and laws have no feelings. Romans 13:8; John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Sometimes you feel like running the red light because you are late, but the law says STOP! (Myles Munroe) God has given us a command to obey, even to the point of loving our enemies. We definitely cannot feel our way to doing that. We choose that!
    • Obey God wholeheartedly – If we think of love primarily as emotional desire and not as active committed service, we end up putting duty and desire against each other in a way that is unrealistic and destructive – Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
  • Relationship with our Spouse

    • Andy Stanley said, “Falling in love is easy; all it requires is a pulse, but staying in love requires a plan.” Love is a verb. You do it. You don’t feel it. Love is an act of the will. We think love is some emotional concoction deep in the soul. However, it is a daily decision to love (verb) our spouse. Then those initial feelings we had when we were all googly-eyed during the dating season will return and stay!
  • Living Out Our Purpose and Calling
    • What is that hard thing God has called you to? Did you start out with enthusiasm and emotion but found yourself giving into your feelings of not wanting to do it anymore? Most people start out feeling one way and quit on a “bad” day. Here’s the thing, you cannot rely on your feelings to lead you to greatness. Greatness occurs through daily habits and choices. Commit, follow-through, invest, practice and deliver even when you don’t feel like it.

Burden of Strength

burden-small-image
Photo Credit Gino Astuto Artist

There’s an invisible armor that we all tend to bear… Its superhero characteristics include the illusion that you have it all together. There is no moderation in these commendable qualities you possess. You can take care of others, be independent, put your needs aside or indicate that you do not have any to begin with. This armor of strength is your superhero mechanism to reject all forms of denial, depression, or sadness that you may feel because you have an obligation to control yourself and those around you. Nothing happens without you or without your consent. Nothing comes past this armor that you bear. Nothing…

The saddened state of this armor is that you probably did not put it on yourself. Society teaches us to be independent, strong, financially dependent, and incredibly self-sufficient. For the African-American culture, there is an epidemic of the stereotypical “Strong Black Woman” who has to dance between the image of being strong but vulnerable enough to be with an equally “Strong Black Man.” The pressures that both black woman and men face are too heavy to bear so often times it leads to a co-dependency that ultimately destroys cultural relationships and healthy authenticity. For the typical “white” culture in society, men and woman bear the armor of strength through status and hierarchy that only deepens the divide that our country has been fighting for hundreds of years. Other minority cultures bear the armor to protect themselves from being hurt and taken advantage of, which furthers the distance of reconciliation and restoration that is so desperately needed…

I’m sure you’re familiar with the story of David and Goliath. “In 1 Samuel 17, just before David goes out to face the giant, Saul tries to protect David in the best way that he knows how by dressing him in his own armor (Walker-Barnes, 2014).

” Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them: “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. – 1 Samuel 17:38-39 NIV

If we are all honest, we all have been dressed by an armor that we are not meant to bear or is not our own in some sort of fashion. We cannot allow culture and society to paint the picture of who we are supposed to be…and so like David, we need to begin the process of taking off this armor that is “too heavy a yoke to bear (Walker-Barnes, 2014).” Only then can we be free and move and discover our own identity in Christ. Even the best of the best superheros dismantled his suit and identified as human…Clark Kent to Superman and back to Clark Kent. But what does this look like for you and I?

“It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV

When we accept Christ we are no longer slaves to the things of this world, no longer slaves to the armor that it wants us to bear, and no longer slaves to the pressures that it wants us to conform to. Those yokes are heavy and will cause us to have real life issues that are detrimental to our physical health and overall well-being! Who wants to live life like that? I’ve been there and to be honest often times find myself back in a trap that wants me in bondage to bearing the heavy burden of this world, especially when it comes to trying to take care of everyone in my circle. But let me tell you what joy it is to become slaves to righteousness. God’s yoke is easy and light. God bears the yoke for us and thus we are led to freely and wholeheartedly obey the love that sets us free…Please don’t misunderstand that we are not supposed to walk around with no armor. Ephesians 6 advises us to put on the whole armor of God…we are supposed to be protected and guarded but the difference is the weight of the world’s armor will be a burden, while the weight of God’s armor will liberate you.

I have recently taken a class that addressed this issue of the burden of strength (in particular African-American woman) but I believe so many others deal with it as well. We read a book from Chanequa Walker-Barnes called “Too Heavy A Yoke: Black Woman and the Burden of Strength” and a lot of this content I wrote about comes from this book. She really does a masterful job of offering historical, social, and theological influences on why we deal with this burden of strength and even crafts practical ways in which we can begin the process to being free from these stereotypes. I will address three here that she mentions that I thought were most insightful to me. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

too-heavy-a-yoke

  • Find a safe community or small group – Walker -Barnes speaks about becoming a part of community in which you trust and feel safe enough to “dis-armor.” We are meant to be in relationship with other people and intimately connect emotionally and spiritually. Do you have a community of close friends, small group, or safe place where you can be vulnerable and let down your guard? Also, “when you are able to demonstrate compassion for others, you learn to be compassionate toward yourself (Walker-Barnes, 2014). I often like to ask myself “who is sitting at your destiny table?” Who you associate with often determines where your future will look like in the next couple of years including your well-being.
  • Acknowledge that we are not the Divine – this is one out of the twelve steps Walker-Barnes crafts in the book but I thought was probably one the most important. There is a Power greater than ourselves who can restore to us right relationship with ourselves and others. The biggest take away is that there is hope! There is healing available to you and I if we are willing to receive it.
  • We carry this message to others – it’s one thing to get it for ourselves….but trust me there is more work to be done in generations that follow us and they need to know that they don’t have to bear a burden if they do not have to. Let’s be a generation of bridge – builders that offer hope and restoration for a better tomorrow.