Thoughts enter my mind, feelings wash over me, and I desire what I do not possess. Much of the time I can push my thoughts aside, ignore my feelings, and distract myself from what I desire, but I’m healthier, both mentally and physically when I take an honest look at my thoughts, feelings, and desires.
Social media offers mantras, memes, and memorized phrases which tell me how to think or what to think and promise that if I can just change my thoughts, I can be happy.
Yes, I ought to renounce lies and tell myself the truth, but no quota of positive thoughts will change me at my core. I am more than my thoughts.
When I was small, there was not much talk about feelings. It didn’t seem to matter what anyone felt, unless an adult was extremely angry. But brain research has proven that feelings have power in our minds and bodies whether or not we acknowledge them. Grieving people like myself are encouraged to express their feelings in a healthy way, which mostly means in a way that won’t hurt anyone.
Problems arise when we use the now powerful phrase “I feel” to describe something that isn’t a feeling. For example, I’ve often heard the phrase, “I feel unsafe.” Unsafe is not an emotion, but a state of being. I may feel scared or timid or shy or alarmed (and only I know how I feel), but in reality, I either am in danger or I am safe. If I feel scared even when I am safe, something else is amiss and I may need help to identify what the problem is.
Identifying my feelings and expressing them in healthy ways is good, but sometimes they barge in uninvited and are connected with something that has little to do with here and now. Feelings are fascinating and complex, but I cannot find my identity in the constant examination of my feelings. I am more than my feelings.
My desires motivate me to act whether for good or ill. “If you want peace,” the saying goes, “work for justice.” Good desires lead to good actions. My desire for a happy family life compels me to love and serve other members of my family rather than spending all my energies on myself. If I want some material thing, I could find a way to earn the money to pay for it, ingratiate myself to someone who will buy it for me, or even steal it. But no amount of material goods will ever satisfy me. My wants and desires are endless. Once I get what I want, another desire appears. This curious state of endless desire points to something beyond me.
I am more than my thoughts, feelings, and desires. They are temporal, fleeting, bound by time, while I am made for eternity. Amazingly, the Eternal God is intimately interested in the details of our lives. He lived among us in the person of Jesus, learning what it feels like to be trapped in time while destined for eternity.
Acknowledging as honestly as possible, my thoughts, feelings, and desires and laying them out under the loving gaze of Jesus has brought a previously unimaginable vitality to my prayer life.
When I, under the loving gaze of the King of the Universe, receive the truth of who I am in his sight, I remember my dignity. In him I find everything I need to respond to the reality of my circumstances with the same love he gives me.
Even though my dreams and desires are never fully met here on earth, I have tasted of eternity and have a sure and certain hope that there I will at last find eternal satisfaction.
. . . affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.Romans 5: 3b-5