"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." - Heb 12:1
Sin entangles. It traps us. Keeps us in a certain space, or at least makes it difficult for us to leave. I think most of us understand this. I certainly have felt like it is impossible to throw my sin off. It certainly doesn't help that quite often we don't see or understand how sin in operating in our lives. It feels invisible and therefore beyond our comprehension.
As I continue my personal journey, I have come to a realization that my emotions can be a pivotal gateway to sin. I spoke on Sunday about how I see sin working, how it isn't just a matter of doing right or wrong, but really about how we are manipulated to live out what is contrary to how God created us to be. In the account of God speaking with Cain (Gen 4:1-12), I find it fascinating that the first thing God does is to bring Cain to a realization of what emotions he was experiencing: anger and disappointment. I believe that God was trying to help Cain join the dots between his emotions and the actions he was formulating in his head.
Emotions are such an important part of our human experience. And my understanding is that not too long ago, humans were taught to suppress their emotions. They were often seen as weaknesses and uncontrollable except through denying them. I believe that in today's culture emotions have not been unshackled, but promoted beyond their place. To some extent I think we are being taught today that our emotions are the sum of our being. I feel therefore I am.
I think that our emotions give us a sense of being, but I believe the most important role they play is to give us an indication of what is taking place inside of us. The most helpful analogy I can think of is that emotions are like the indicators on our dashboard that show us what is taking place in the engine and the car. When something takes place our emotions light up or move in a way that indicate what is taking place. We are moving fast. The brakes are on. Your fuel is low. We need to understand what our emotions are indicating at a deeper level in order to react accordingly.
When we fail to do so, we overreact to some situations and underreact to others. Recently, Bec's car's "check engine" light turned on. Neither of us are well-versed in "car" and immediately that light looked dangerous. I did my research and apparently leaving the fuel cap slightly loose can turn the light on. I checked it and yes, I didn't ensure that it had been screwed on tight. We drove on and in due course the light went off. We felt safe again. Then a couple of months later the light came on again! This time round we brought it in to the shops and as it turned out there were a few bits that needed fixing, but amongst the faulty parts was the "check engine" sensor. I honestly thought that it was quite hilarious that the thing that was causing us to stress out was the part that went to tell us whether something was wrong or not.
Take a moment to evaluate the emotions you react to strongly. What do they say to you? Do they indicate something deeper? And think about the emotions you suppress or deny. Perhaps you distract yourself the moment you feel these emotions. For me, I stress-eat. When I'm peckish ALL the time, I'm probably not looking at my stress levels. I'm learning that the better I speak "emotions", the more likely I am to finding out the reasons I do things that I know I shouldn't. If I am to stay in the freedom God has given me, I have to learn about the times that I turn away and live "contrary to myself".