11 Nov 2014

How to do the Will of God when your thoughts, feelings and behaviour are all in a jumble

Some days I can almost hear those gears grinding in my mighty teen's head as we talk about life, love, annoyances, boys (often a subset of annoyances), God and so on. Of late, she has become rather fascinated with the notions of personality and human psychology: what makes us do what we do? When you are as old as I rather am, you will forget you walked this road before as a teen - the one marked with so many signage it was plain confusing.

But then we reached some spot where we breathe, feel the wind, come alive, go a-ha!

credit: Michelle Nyat-Teoh

Somewhere in my university days I remember learning about CABs. We all move around in CABs, not the taxi variety but in a mobile unit made of our Cognition, Affections, and Behaviour. If you prefer, we are the ego sum of our Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour (speech and actions, silence and non-action). It was hugely helpful moment when the lights came on for me. However, the psychology prof did not really tell us which of the three came first. So we were largely left to sort the sequence and pieces out and many days as a young woman, that is pretty hard stuff when your mind tells you one thing, your heart another and you may out of cowardice, peer pressure or sheer momentary insanity act yet another way!

But that was years ago. I am glad I remember my clumsy years. It certainly reins in my tendency to run out of patience with the mighty teen and lead me down a more compassionate path. While I still believe that difficulty and hardship are wonderful gifts when one is growing up to develop grit; I also see that her battle is a different one. Grit is still needed from her; but it is called forth in other ways. Figuring out who one is has never been an easy thing to do, rich or poor. Very few embark on it with honesty and courage and so many fall by the wayside and settle for living up to some handed down dream or limit themselves to circumstances.

My hope is that my own journey can be a legacy and a sort of trail for her to learn how to make her own.

According to the famous Myers Briggs temperament analysis, I score higher on Thinking than Feeling, which is to say I process my information more through my brain than my heart. I was happy to hear that having grown up in a spiritual tradition that was distrustful of fickle human emotions and also seeing first-hand the crazy damage to congenial relations when emotions ran feverish and words and bamboo poles were wielded to inflict hurt {that's right, my maternal grandma you do not trigle with}.

So my CAB had a huge large captial 'C' that drove the way forward, or so I thought.

What the psychology prof did not also address is what happens when God gets involved. So let me tell you: He stalls the cab. My thinking hit a limit.

Without the Thoughts to control the other bits; I found my Feelings staging a mutiny and my Behaviour sometimes surprising!

For others I have seen, it has been Good behaviour, Outstanding Performance, Fantastic Feelings that have ruled the day. But sooner or later, they hit a limit. We cannot sustain our self-constructed worlds. God lets some disrepair, disorder, disruption take place. It can lead to pretty depressing states. But it is the only way we are jolted out of our self-life. In the Silence when what used to work doesn't, we find our Selves deconstructed and if we dare, a truer more real self will emerge.

You see, there is one more component the prof didn't talk about because he didn't study it in graduate school: the Imago Dei - made in God's image. You and I, thus created and designed operate not only with Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour; we also have this mysterious bit that still defies location today, called the Will. The Will is the power house of direction and action. We can think and feel and act but until we will something, the power doesn't come through. 

I love him -
can be a thought. O what a lovely thought. But it can remain all but within our brains.
can be a feeling. Such a sweet feeling. But it vaporises quickly enough when a contradictory feeling comes along.
can be an action. Great acts can even arise from this but they need to be sustained...
Thought, Feeling and Behaviour gathers at the gate waiting for the Will to muster them and say -- 
I will love him! 
The question is, will I? Will you? Why yes/no?

So I realised the deeper Q is this: what wills you? Why should the Will awaken and assert over the rest? The answer is that there is A Higher Will that you and I pursue and seek to obey. It is what we say in the prayer Jesus taught

Our Father in HeavenHallowed by Thy NameThy Kingdom ComeThy Will be doneOn earth as it is in Heaven...

I can almost see a valley full of Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour now gather in amazing numbers bearing arms and waving signs that say 'no way!'.  I hear protests of :
do you have any idea what i have gone through, my mind remembers every detail...
my heart is still in so much pain
look, this is just not me, I simply don't do this

I wait out the clamour a bit. I let the self-evident results play out as the Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour begin to show signs of disunity. The great army disintegrates in smaller camps rife with conflict. The memory is hazy, the feelings are going hither and thither, and the behaviours are deepening in crisis.

I read a Psalm slowly. At first, the three continue with their murmuring... but they quieten down, and when I read this, they snap to attention ~
"Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
all you who hope in the LORD." ~ Psalm 31v24

I go back to the start of the Psalm now that they are quiet, and read again:

"In You, O LORD, I put my trust,
let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness.
Bow down your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me...
For you are my strength.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, o LORD God of truth...
You have considered my trouble;
you have known my soul in adversities...
My times are in Your hand..." ~ Psalm 31v1-5 (NKJV)

As The Thoughts back down from their haughty place, as the Feelings are soothed with a salve that reaches deep, and as my Behaviour stops flaunting its self-righteous label, my Will arises afresh and commands them to move in concert to the baton held by the One who knows best. I am ready to act in love.

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