"My feelings were not welcomed in the Church (or at home, at times). I learned to deny their existence. When afraid, I was told, "Thou shalt not fear." When angry, "Sin not." When needy, "Know the fullness of Christ." To feel my own feelings was to deny God's all-sufficiency. I learned to swallow my loneliness, anger, and fear. They were imprisoned inside my belly." I’ve been pondering this particular lament since I read it on a friend’s Facebook post a couple of weeks ago. The source of the quote is a book called, A God Who Looks Like Me written by Patricia Lynn Reilly.
I have looked for the book at bookstores and the library, but other than purchasing it on Amazon, I’ve had no luck. Which may or may not be a good thing I guess, because I can’t quite figure out where the feminist author is going with it. At first I was just kind of stunned into silence by the desperation I sense in her words or maybe it is a depressing sense of resignation. And that is probably because I am the one who would be right there offering Biblical comfort, counsel and the peace that I know is found only in Christ.
So, I am so thoroughly intrigued to find out where she is taking this and in the mean time I am thoughtfully pondering her seemingly hopeless conundrum. Well, here are my thoughts and my questions (and I recognize that I am making them with only the known lament and not the full text or her summation and/or solution/resolution). Maybe as I pose them more clarity will come, but also I would love to know what others think.
First of all the title of the book causes me to question: A God Who Looks Like Me. I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in a God Who Looks Like Me. What good would there be in that? The scripture says that we are “made in His image” not He in ours. I don’t understand the mystery of that, but I am content with knowing that my God knows what He is doing.
Secondly, I have learned, in a lifetime of dealing with “my feelings,” that they are not always reliable and they are certainly not the barometer that I want determining how I live my life day-by-day or what choices I make. Feelings are what they are. Yes, I have to acknowledge them. Denying their existence or ignoring them will not help. But, once I acknowledge them I have found it necessary to try to figure out where they are coming from. Once I have a general (or specific) idea of their source I am more able to move on to the next stage. I need to make a personal decision about how I am going to master them. For I am determined that they will not master me! That often leads to a downhill spiral, doesn’t it? And after all, isn’t that part of maturing? Isn’t learning to master my responses to feelings a significant part of growing up? And, I guess a part of that is admitting that I don’t want to live with feelings of loneliness, anger and fear. I’ve been there and it’s not for me. I will not be consumed by loneliness, anger or fear for one moment longer than it takes me to surrender them to the LORD. I will not allow them to burn a whole in my belly by imprisoning them there. I am meant to live free. Unburdened by the slavery of unhealthy or painful feelings, I will walk in freedom.
At the same time, I will be the first to recognize and acknowledge that we can very well have the head knowledge; We can know every scriptural help and promise of God and still just not FEEL it. There is a vast difference between knowing the truths in my head and feeling them in my heart. That’s where the work continues for me and I believe it is a lifelong process of, one day at a time, “learning to lean” and standing on His promises by faith. Growing in Christlikeness and not expecting my God to look like me! Heaven forbid! Besides, I do believe my God is all-sufficient. Isn't that what makes Him God? Does that make sense?