Feelings or Formulas? 5-7-18

Today, life is all about doing everything as quickly and simply as possible. Everywhere we look there are lists on how to be successful: 7 steps to get rich quick, top 10 ways to make it through college, 5 steps to be a good parent. It appears that life is full of formulas to succeed. We try to make everything comprehensible so we can go from one task to the next.

The problem with simplifying life is that we lose connection with art, feelings, and relationship. Formulas help us go from one step to another, but we lose something in between.

I’ve been reading Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller recently. The book jumps all over the place from chapter to chapter, but it brings up many great ideas on how to look deeper at one’s faith. Miller analyzes the difference between biblical times and where society is today. The Bible was written in a completely different time period than today. In the past, stories and theories were passed on through stories and poetry. These forms of art allow listeners or readers to feel the story and connect with the meaning rather than a literal translation. Today, we tell straight-forward stories or give lists to understand an experience, but they often are not through poetry or parables like parts of the Bible. This causes modern controversy over biblical interpretations because our society struggles to understand the meaning behind a story told thousands of years ago when it is viewed through a 21st century, cultural lens.

Our straight-forward style and literal conversations distance us from the emotion attached to poetry and other literary art. For Christians, “our lists and formulas and bullet points are nice in the sense that they help us memorize different truths, but harmful in the sense that they blind us to the necessary relationship that must begin between ourselves and God for us to become His followers.” To be a Christian, you could come up with a list of things you must believe to say you are a follower of Jesus, but the necessary relationship with Jesus can’t be described in a formula.

If I write a poem about feeling anxious, the reader will gain a different insight than me trying to plainly describe how I am feeling. I can describe feeling anxious by telling you how I don’t know what to decide. I’m scared to make a decision because I’m afraid of the potential consequences of any choice I make. That is different than showing that through a poem:

I don’t know what I feel

I don’t know what to think

I feel like I’m in a lake and starting to sink.

Do I actually know what I believe?

Or am I a product of what other people think?

Poetry brings out a deeper emotion than plain explanations. Formulas and lists don’t dig into emotions and feelings like poetry and parables.

Having a relationship with Jesus is similar to entering into a romantic relationship with a significant other. There is no set formula on how each is done. I know someone who was engaged after dating their significant other for one month. I know other people who dated for over 5 years before getting engaged. One person’s process is not identical to another’s. One person’s life is not identical to another’s. A step-by-step manual that worked for one person may not work for you. Streamlining may work on an assembly line, but streamlining an art or emotion will leave something missing in a relationship.

This week, choose to pursue feelings instead of following a formula. Tap into your emotions alongside your logic. Life is full of necessary relationships that will be missed if you are only looking for a list of steps to follow.

Don’t make faith a formula. Don’t make life a checklist. Live life through relationship. Feel emotion. Through relationship and emotion, you will truly experience what it is like to live.

 

I appreciate you.

-JP

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