Athlete, There is Crying in Sports
John 11:35 (ESV)
Maybe you were mad about a bad call a ref made and you repented because you’re not supposed to get mad. Maybe you were sad you lost the conference championship game and repented because you’re supposed to rejoice always.
Maybe you were devastated after you tore your ACL and were mad at yourself for being devastated, because you’re supposed to have an eternal perspective.
But what if it’s good and right by God to sometimes feel mad, sad and disappointed? What if those feelings are not wrong to feel, but wrong to not feel?
What if your repentance was not what God wanted, but rather what you thought God wanted? What if God actually wanted your raw emotions, not your self-reproach?
Athlete, God made us in His likeness and God has feelings and emotions, which means we do too. So being an image bearer of God means we’ll be distressed by things that are distressing, upset by things that are wrong, and hurt by things that let us down.
To be clear, feelings and emotions can mislead us. They are not a result of the fall, but they are fallen. So, not every emotion automatically reflects God.
But our feelings, emotions, and sensations are teachers and roadmaps. They are part of our God-given intelligence. They reflect the physiological and psychological wisdom of God. So when we partake in the emotionality our creator possesses and bestows, we are honoring, not dishonoring, Him.
Plus, being aware of and attuned to our feelings, emotions, and sensations is part of the meta-awareness, or “big mind” that God gifted humans with, which is one thing that separates us from the rest of the animals. This gift is essential to spiritual growth and formation and connecting to God and others.
It might sound suspect to speak highly of feelings and emotions, because oftentimes in Christianity they are thought to be inherently selfish, opposed to faith, and things we should die to. They are thought to be spiritual liabilities that are not aligned with truth.
Feelings and emotions are thought to reveal a lack of an eternal perspective, and be irrational, reactionary, rudimentary and weak.
But look at Jesus and David.
Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He mourned. He was troubled. He wept and got angry.
He cried out on the cross as He died – identifying with us all the way down to the pit of our emotions. He didn’t cry out because He didn’t have faith, but because He did.
Jesus was perfect and He felt deeply. That’s one of the reasons He was perfect. In Jesus, we see a clear picture of the range and depth of God’s ongoing emotional life.
David had a robust emotional life too. He didn’t believe he should die to his feelings and emotions. Instead, he felt them, because he knew God is close to the brokenhearted. He knew having a wounded and weary heart wasn’t a disqualifier, but a prerequisite to God’s comforts and closeness.
Rather than finding his raw emotions intolerable, sinful, unpolished or embarrassing, David saw them as catalysts for a relationship with God. David knew His emotional life wasn’t opposed to a life of faith, but essential to it.
Athlete, maybe you’ve cursed your “negative” feelings. Maybe you’ve been mean to yourself over your feelings. Maybe you’ve felt mad about being fragile.
It might seem like your feelings course through your body like a swarm of bees keeping you from spiritual clarity. So, you try to read, pray, or think your way out of them.
Maybe you’ve thought if you were strong you wouldn’t feel so weak or vulnerable. Or if you just believed the truth, then you wouldn’t have such big feelings.
So, maybe you’ve vilified feelings and emotions in the name of following Jesus. But remember, Jesus is literally the truth, and He felt deeply.
That means spiritual growth can’t require us to ignore or get rid of feelings and emotions. It means chastising our feelings and emotions will work against our spiritual progress.
It means trusting God is not just a linear, logical and rational exercise, but an emotional, creative and fluid endeavor.
It means it’s not God’s goal for us to rise above or be stronger than feelings and emotions. But to embrace and integrate them, not so we can merely feel better, but so we can feel better.
Sojourner, your feelings and emotions are not always stumbling blocks. They are stepping stones.