By: Scott Morefield
Do you remember your first high-school romance? I do. I remember being head-over-heels over a girl I dated all of two months during my senior year in high school. In fact, even though I had good grades and had already been accepted into college, I was seriously considering putting off higher education altogether and marrying her! I remember telling my mother the gist of my ‘plans’ (hey, who needs money and a place to live when you can live on love, right?). I still remember the way she looked at her normally responsible, never-in-trouble son – like I had morphed into Bozo the clown right before her eyes. She asked me if I had gone insane. Truth is, at least temporarily, I had!
Aren’t feelings amazing? They add so much joy and variety to our lives, and yet so often they have the remarkable ability to convince us to do the most stupid, idiotic things. Consider some examples:
- Eating an entire box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts sure feels good… while we’re eating it.
- That intense feeling of anger we experience when someone cuts us off in traffic, verbally insults us, or otherwise wrongs us in some way can lead to expressions that often get us in trouble, and even crimes of passion.
- Does anyone feel like cleaning the house? Making the bed? (OK, bad example – let’s face it, unless company is coming making the bed is pointless!) Doing the laundry? Yet what would our living space look like if we obeyed those feelings?
- So many marriages end in divorce because one or both partners don’t feel ‘in love.’ Instead of working on the root causes of the lack of feeling and doing things to reignite that original spark, they choose to give up.
- Children don’t feel like obeying their parents and parents don’t feel like lovingly disciplining their children.
- Drugs (apparently) cause a feeling that abusers will do anything to seek, again and again, until their lives are destroyed.
- In our Spiritual lives, do we always feel like praying, reading our Bibles, or witnessing to others?
- All of us surely at times have not felt like coming into work, and yet following those feelings can lead to financial and personal ruin. Many people give in to that feeling of not wanting to learn, to stretch their capacities, to work hard at something. All of us have probably been guilty of this at one point or another, and yet if this were the pattern for most, society would literally fall apart. Notwithstanding those who legitimately use unemployment and even welfare benefits as a true leg up, many become accustomed to the freebies that our government currently offers, and as a result they become a burden to everyone else.
Jesus said, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 It seems like a paradox. How can we be happy if we deny ourselves, and yet how can we live a life that is happy and fulfilled if we don’t? God expects us to be the master of our feelings, to use them in a positive, productive way, to rein them in when they are detrimental.
Wisdom is the art of knowing which is which. It’s not so much focusing on the feelings we are experiencing in any given moment, but rather anticipating the feelings we will experience AFTER we follow our desired course of action. Sure, that box of doughnuts feels good going down, but what of the misery later? Sure, a teenager might want to follow his or her feelings on that third date, but what of the consequences after? Sure, we may not feel like going to work, but can we afford it? It’s the art of self-denial and self-control, both worthy attributes we all should work on throughout our lives.
Back then, I listened to my mother and didn’t propose to the girl who eventually broke up with me, married another guy, had a baby, never went to college like she wanted to, and eventually divorced the guy she married. When the time was right, God brought the right woman into my life and those feelings, guided by wisdom, led me to propose to the lady who eventually became the mother of my four children.