the value of feelings

I was lying in bed crying.  My husband was sound asleep next to me.  And all I could think about was how unloved I felt.

My pillow was getting wet from my tears… and that just added to my frustration.  Not only do I feel unloved, but now I am sleeping on a slimy pillow!  Gross.

As I lay there glumly, the Lord was gracious to nudge me.  Yes, I’m feeling unloved… but does that mean that my husband doesn’t love me?

My feeling is important – feeling unloved is a big deal.  Yet I’ve got to remember that it’s a feeling – a trigger that something is wrong.  It is not a foundation of truth.  It is a warning light.  It is not always accurate, but it is such an important indicator.  Its value lies in its ability to draw my attention to something that needs to be looked in to.

So I asked the Lord to look under the hood : )

Since feelings can be caused by my sin… or by Satan… or they can be prompting from the Lord, where was all this feeling of being unloved from?

Since my goal is the last option – that my feeling be of the Lord, I want to be sure to get any uckiness out of me that fits the first two.  For me, when I feel a bit discombobulated, I find it helpful to distill my thoughts and feelings by running them through God’s Word.  Philippians 4:8 is especially powerful for me:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

In all honesty, I rarely make it past the first two.  And that’s exactly what happened that night…

The Lord brought to mind a bunch of things that were true.  My love language – by a landslide! – is physical touch.  My absolute favorite time of day is climbing into bed with my husband and cuddling.  That’s how I fell asleep every night for years – cuddling with my amazing husband.  I loved it.  It was the happiest, best place on earth for me.  We teased that we have a king sized bed but could sleep on a twin…

…or I did, anyway!

After years of falling asleep this way, my husband finally told me that he has trouble sleeping every night because of back pain.  Before I knew him, he had two major back surgeries.  He permanently has a huge metal plate and six metal bolts in his back.  And they’re not very comfy.  Especially with your wife curled up next to you causing the mattress to lean at an angle… or with your wife’s leg or arm on top of you pressing down on all that metal.  He asked if we could sleep on separate sides of the bed so he wouldn’t be in as much pain and could sleep better.  Of course!  Well, that was my rational answer, anyway.  But when implementation time came, my feelings took over.

So that’s why I was laying in bed crying.  I felt so unloved.  And in that intense emotion, as much as I wanted to turn it into, “Therefore, my husband doesn’t love me,” the Lord was gracious to stop me.  What was true?  Cuddling makes me feel loved.  I was in a situation where I normally was cuddling and thus normally felt loved, but that was different tonight.  What was different was whether or not we were cuddling – not whether or not I was loved!  What is noble?  Um, my crazy husband lay in pain every night for years letting me cuddle with him!  That’s insanely loving of him.  How much more noble of a man could I ask for?!

And, like most times of conviction, that’s about as far through the {dhs} sifter as I made it.  So I lay in bed blown away by how much my husband loves me – how much he has sacrificed for me every night for years.  Yet I also acknowledged that cuddling is important to me.  So the next day, I asked since we weren’t cuddling falling asleep anymore if there was some other time we could.

That conversation went over much better than “You don’t love me” would have!

Because it was of the Lord.  It was realigned with His desires – that we think things that are true and noble.  That feelings are a trigger that something is wrong… but not a foundation of truth.  I am so grateful for the damage and destruction in relationships that is averted when we align our hearts and minds with the Lord’s before acting on our feelings.  And I am grateful for the peace, clarity – and love! – the Lord brought to me that night.

Just because I feel unloved doesn’t mean my husband doesn’t love me.

He does.  Madly.  Sacrificially.  And for that, I am blessed.

Mind the Gap

I was talking to a friend of mine who does websites for churches.  I shared the concept of my blog, and he suggested a talk by Andy Stanley.  It’s only fitting that it’s all about apps! : )

The talk is #5  in the Life Apps series.  It’s all about trust.

Andy’s take on this whole conflict thing seems to align pretty swimmingly with our take here at {double hockey sticks}.  I just love his angle on it!  I highly recommend listening to the talk - or even better, watching it!  He uses a simple illustration that is fantastic.  Here’s what I just love…

He offers a fairly simple – yet oddly profound – breakdown:

In every relationship, there are expectations…And then there is what we actually experience.

Here is what you said you would do…

Here is what happened…

Now here is the interesting part.  What happens when there is a gap?  What happens when what we expect and what actually happens are different?

When there is a gap, we choose what goes in the gap.

*We* are in charge of that.  *They* don’t control what goes in the gap.  *We* do.

Why?

Andy launches from some of the beloved wedding verses about loving one another.  His take:

Love gives the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Love looks for the most generous explanation for the other person’s behavior.

Here at {double hockey sticks}, we advocate it’s because it is our responsibility as believers to take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to Christ.  It is our responsibility to think things that are true and noble.  So we start with what is true – actually, factually true.  We start with what factually they said they would do… and what *factually* happened.  Factually what is true.  Not our opinion or our interpretation of their motives or our false attribution error of what happened.  The actual, factual, unopinionated version of what happened.

Then what do we do with the gap?

It is within your power to choose what goes in the gap.

We think things that are noble.  We assume there is a noble explanation.  We choose to believe the best.

We are in charge of what goes in that gap.

No matter how bad it is, no matter how wide the gap is, and no matter how consistently there is a gap, you. choose. what. goes. in. the. gap.

So we start with what is true of our expectations and experience (actually, factually true!), then we believe the best by thinking things that are noble to fill in any gaps.

This is, by the way, a great model for more than our thought life – it is a great model for ‘confrontation’ as well.  I put it in quotes, because it is my experience that most ‘confrontation’ doesn’t have to be ‘confrontational.’

Can I tell you the sweetest story from my husband’s childhood to demonstrate?

So my husband is out playing with some friends.  His mom calls him in for dinner.  What is a good kid to do? Well, obey their mom and come in for dinner.

But Dave doesn’t come in.  He continues hanging out with his friends.

Hmmmm…

You see the paradigm playing out here?

  • EXPECTATION: son comes in when mom calls him for dinner
  • EXPERIENCE: son continued talking to his friends

Both very factual, right?

Now what goes in the gap?

Possibilities of course include disobedience.  But my husband is a saint.  I’m serious : )  So my mother-in-law chose to believe the best.  She chose to assume positive intent.  She chose to think things that were noble.

And can I tell you – boy, was she right?

So Dave comes in, and for the sake of the story, let’s say she knows the future and follows Andy’s outline. : )  So she ‘confronts’ (not really, more ‘asks lovingly’)…

MOM: Dave, when I call you to come in for dinner, I expect you to come in.  But this time you didn’t.  Can you tell me about what happened?

And Dave responds, (are you ready for this?)

SON: I was in the middle of sharing the gospel with them.

{insert a bit of stun}  Yes, I told you the man is a saint : )

Sometimes there is a pretty decent explanation for why there is a gap between expectations and experience.  And may I be so bold as to say that we keep from sinning when we think nobly about what should go in that gap.

So let’s mind the gap.  Nobly! : )

{ There are more goodies in the talk.  I don’t want to spill *all* of them! : ) }

Trayvon and Zimmerman: Crosshairs or the Cross?

As people rally around Trayvon’s family, I am moved by all the support.

Support I love.  Support in grief is invaluable.

But part of me is deeply, deeply concerned.

As I hear so many things espoused in this intense situation, I can’t help but think of Philippians 4:8 – to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

Now whether or not Zimmerman did that is one issue.

But that’s not the issue we answer for.

We answer for our thoughts.  We answer for whether or not we are thinking things that are true – actually, factually true.  Noble.  And pure.

All of our thoughts.  Including our thoughts about George.

Now I know this may sound extreme.  But negatively defining a person by telling them what they are, what they think, and what their motives are is a pretty intense thing.  It’s actually called verbal abuse.

Now what Zimmerman did or did not do, again, is his.  But what we do is ours before the Lord.

So should we be negatively defining his motives as racism?

Now I’m not trying to defend the guy.  I’m not saying he’s for sure not a racist.  As far as I am aware, the actual, factual truths include this: George is a Hispanic man who has black family members, black friends, and tutors students of all races, including blacks.   He may indeed, in the midst of all of that, have some sort of racist something in him.  Anything is possible.  But given his life – given the actual, factual truths (and not my emotions) – it seems like there could at least be a sliver of a possibility that he is not racist.

If I stand before the Lord and call this man a racist, and the Lord instead finds a man who reached out to people of other races, what does that make me?  Yikes.  I’m more than wrong.  At best I am an abuser.  A sinning abuser.  And at worst?  Well, there is a bounty on his head.

We may never be sure exactly what happened and exactly what the motives were.  But what is for sure is our Lord.  And what is for sure is His command to us.  He tells us to think things that are true – actually, factually true.  And he tells us to think things that are noble – what is a possible noble explanation?

Not thinking so is sin.

What is ours to answer is not whether Zimmerman had pure thoughts.  What is ours to answer before the Lord is whether we have pure, noble thoughts.

Will our reasoning be correct?

Never violate the principles of God in order to gain or maintain the blessing of God. ~ Charles Stanley

We mustn’t circumvent God’s principles in order to arrive at our conclusion.  Is racism wrong?  Absolutely.  I believe racism so saddens the One who created every person on this planet – including both Trayvon and George.  Is George Zimmerman a racist?  Our job is to follow God’s principles as we consider this man He created.  Our job is to view others through the cross – not crosshairs!  We must be careful not to violate the principles of God to get to a blessed conclusion.

I am so saddened about Trayvon’s death and for his family.

But I also have great concern that in our emotion, we still honor our Lord and His desires for every step of our hearts and minds.

Seamless

Is this all sounding a little radical?  A little crazy?  A little extreme?

Check out this guy.  You can watch the whole video if you want… but I especially love minutes 7 to 10.  (Or precisely, 6:58-10:02.)  I just love the passion and pure joy with which Francis Chan lives his life.


He passionately wants his life to fit in with the New Testament.  He wants it to flow seamlessly as part of God’s Word.  His decisions in life may seem radical from the world’s perspective…but in the context of the New Testament, it is totally not radical.  If fact, it fits right in… so much so that it’s totally un-radical.  It’s not even highlighter worthy!

So we’re talking about thinking things that are true and noble.  Is that radical?  If we lived lives like that, would it fit in with the New Testament?

“And then there was a woman named [insert your name].  She decided to think things in life that are true and noble – including her thoughts about other people.”

Is that weird?

Biblically, is that weird?

I love Francis Chan’s goal:  “At the end of my life, I want my life to fit in this book.”

Who actually *likes* the crust?

When my husband and I first got married, I made him 4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day.  Yes – four!  The boy loves his pb&j!  Jif Creamy with my mom’s recipe for homemade strawberry jam on wheat bread that doesn’t taste wheat-y.  That is seriously his dream meal.

Our friends know how much he loves his pb&j – so much so that one of my bridesmaids got us the cutest card when we got married.  We love it and made it into a magnet for our fridge : )

So with his downing 8 slices of bread a day, we went through our bread pretty quickly!  And trying to make him the best possible meals (it’s pb&j – there is only so much I can do to make it quality!), I always gave him the inside slices of bread.  I would eat the crust pieces (most people call them the ‘heels’ of the bread – I just think that’s kind of gross to call your food by a name that is part of your foot!).

Now the crust pieces aren’t my favorite.  In fact, I think they are quite un-tasty (maybe they do deserve to be called the heel!).  So I’d turn the crust part towards the inside of my sandwich to try to hide the flavor and texture of it.  It only works so well.  But we were on a crazy tight budget, and I wanted my husband to thoroughly enjoy his lunch, and, well, I just kept trying to convince myself that those crust pieces weren’t all that un-tasty.

After a couple of months of my making him the ‘best’ pb&j sandwiches : ) and ‘sacrificing’ by eating the crusts, Dave asked me a weird question: “What happens to the end pieces?”

I let him know that I turned them inside out on my sandwiches.  Then he ever so politely asked, “Would it be ok if I got the crust pieces on occasion?”

Huh?  He wanted them?  The thought never occurred to me that some people actually *like* the crust!!   “You actually *want* those pieces?”

“Of course!  They’re the best part!”

Huh?

Well, to each his own.  Yes, I am more than happy to divvy out the crust pieces to him!  Works out pretty nicely for me, too. : )

So now that you know all about the fine dining at our house : ), what’s my point?

My point is his approach.  Dave stuck with what was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  He didn’t assume things about me that weren’t true.  He didn’t accuse me of motives that weren’t in my heart.  That can so easily be done!  From his perspective, crusts are yummy, and if he allows his mind to go beyond what’s true, noble, pure, and praiseworthy, he could easily have ended up accusing me of being selfish and self-centered for hogging all the crust pieces.  He could have easily fabricated motives that weren’t really in my heart and falsely accused me.  And that could have been very hurtful—especially since from my perspective, I’d eaten ucky bread for months so he could have the good stuff.  He could have said I should have known and criticized me for not being a mind reader.  He could have speculated about sin and conjured up a whole scheme about how I always do this or that.  He could have started watching for other places where he also thinks I’m acting out of selfish motives.  He could have made a whole mountain out of the issue and put together a laundry-list of other speculated sins.  He could have fixed his eyes on sin-spotting and his mind on speculations of sin, and stirred up dissension and discord over heels!

But he didn’t.  Nope.  He kept this issue as this issue.  He identified the facts and stopped there.  He stayed at what was true – which was that he noticed the crust pieces were MIA.  And he stopped.  He took captive his thoughts and stopped there and asked a question.  He had no anger or hypotheses about sin because he kept his mind focused on what was noble and admirable.  And so he simply asked a curious, fact-finding question.

And so a small, sin-neutral issue was handled as a small, sin-neutral issue… simply by living out this verse.  Dave gets his heels, I get inside pieces, and God gets glory!

And they lived happily ever after. : )

Quick pulse check

When I became a believer at the age of 20, I remember thinking over and over, “The gospel is so simple that I missed it for so many years.”  There are so many angles and aspects and traditions of Christianity that I missed the simplicity, beauty, and power of the heart of the gospel.  The ‘complicated’ part was distilling away the things that Christianity is not to uncover what being a follower of Christ truly is.  And there is such freedom and joy in dwelling in it.

Our discussion of truth has a similar feel.  We’ve spent several blogs distilling ‘true.’  We’ve explored “whatever is true… think on such things” with a variety of illustrations and explanations.  My hope is that we can peel away the things that we often feel justified in thinking in order to get to the simplicity, beauty, and power of truth.

So my simple summation of the last handful of blogs is this: think about things that are true.

There is such freedom and joy in our minds dwelling in it!

“Whatever is true…think on such things.”

an impassioned plea

May I make an impassioned plea?  Please, please, please {insert groveling} evaluate if what you would like to confront someone on is actual, factual truth.  So much time, energy, division, and hurt in the Christian kingdom is spent on fabricated sins. 

There is enough real sin in the world.  There are enough real hurts.  There is enough to do in God’s kingdom. 

We need not create things to confront.

Gotta love when a conflict dissipates!

So we’ve covered valid and sound:

valid   =  logical
sound =  logical + true

What in the world does that have to do with Mark and Larry?

I’m so glad you asked!

Larry’s valid perception looks something like this:

Mark did not share in the group game that he wanted to be a chef.
Not sharing in the group game that he wants to be a chef is disrespectful.
Therefore, Mark was disrespectful.

So his argument is valid.  But is it sound?  Is each statement true?

Mark did not share in the group game that he wanted to be a chef.

It is indeed true that Mark did not share with the group that he wanted to be a chef.

Not sharing in the group game that he wants to be a chef is disrespectful.

While being disrespectful is one possible reason, there are a myriad of possible reasons that Mark did not share his desire to be a chef.  In this instance, it is because he does not want to be a chef!  This statement is not true.

Therefore, the conclusion,

Therefore, Mark was disrespectful.

is valid (logical), but it is not sound (truthful and logical).

So just because Larry has a valid thought doesn’t make it a sound or true thought.  While Larry’s initial statement, “But my perception is valid,” is accurate, his perception is not sound.  It is not truthful.  So certainly perceptions can be valid, but why would we kick around a bunch of logical but potentially untrue thoughts?  There are much better things to do than that! : )  Relationships are more important than that, and people are more valuable than that.

Now for the second part of Larry’s statement: “Mark is responsible for giving the perception that he disrespected my authority.”  Is he?

Larry is thinking something that is not true about his brother in Christ.  His thoughts are not consistent with what God desires us to think – things that are true (Philippians 4:8).  If Larry first worries about righting himself before the Lord, then he would first change his thoughts to what God desires them to be — ones that are true.  If Larry takes captive his thoughts and makes them obedient to Christ, then… well… then there is no problem. If Larry is thinking things that are true, there is no conflict.  Yeah!

Whew!  How easy it can be to dissipate that conflict… if only we keep our thoughts focused on things that are true.  People are worth that honor.  Relationships are worth that trust.  And Christ’s kingdom is worth that peace.

But my perception is valid

After An Untrue Mess and Stop at the Trigger, Larry still isn’t convinced.

“But my perception is valid,” Larry quips.  “Mark is responsible for giving the perception that he disrespected my authority.”

Is he?

The concept that “my perception is valid” didn’t sit well with me. Am I unsettled about it because I don’t want to accept it, or am I unsettled about it because it shouldn’t be accepted?

I did a little digging, and I learned a bit about things that are ‘valid.’

It may be just a phrase, but my journey led to some things that have been really helpful and clarifying for me.  I hope they are for you as well!

Now this may sound a smidge nit-picky or splitting hairs at the beginning, but it turns out to be a valuable distinction.  I really think this is helpful stuff, so I hope you’ll stay with me!

So… just a taste of intro philosophy or logic (I promise our brains won’t hurt for long!)… to help us understand ‘valid’:

For an argument to be valid, the statements in it do not need to be true. Validity is concerned only with logical structure.

Hang with me here!  It’s helpful – I promise. It’s worth getting.

Ok, so here’s an example of a valid argument…

All toasters are items made of gold.
All items made of gold are time-travel devices.
Therefore, all toasters are time-travel devices.

This is a valid argument.  The logic holds up… even though the statements themselves are not true.  (I promise this is ultimately helpful!)

But it is not sound.  (Stay with me – we’re almost there! : ))

We call an argument “sound” if the argument is valid AND all the statements are true.

Here is an example of a sound argument…

No felons are eligible voters.
Some professional athletes are felons.
Therefore, some professional athletes are not eligible voters.

Here the statements are actually true.  The argument is both logical and true, so it is sound.

You’re still with me, right?

So in a valid argument, the statements are logical but not true.  In a sound argument, the statements are both logical and true.

All sound arguments are valid, but not all valid arguments are sound.

There are some pretty big implications to this, but maybe that’s enough for one day?  We’ve covered valid and uncovered a distinction between valid (logical) and sound (truthful and logical).  So what’s the difference between the two?  Something God cares a lot about!  Truth. That’s an important bulls eye to hit!

When a diamond isn’t a girl’s best friend!

I was talking with one of my friends about some of the trigger malfunctions of perceptions, and he responded with this illustration.  I just love it!

He said that it sounds like the formation of a diamond.  Someone speculate s about a person’s motive. Then they think they see other actions with the same motive.  Then they think they see additional actions and still more actions with that same motive.  And they keep piling on to their theory.  And the pile grows heavier and heavier.  And the time grows longer and longer. So the pressure grows greater and greater. And the speculated ‘motive’ seems to become more and more solidified.  And with all the things piled on and the pressure that creates and the time passing, it seems like something hard is forming.  It becomes so solid that it seems to be true.  It seems that out of a little bit of carbon, a diamond seems to be forming.  And it seems to be so hard under all the things piled on and time passed and pressure that has built, that it seems to be rock solid.

And so we end up confronting people on these things that seem rock solid.

Think about how often this has occurred in the world!  How often has a speculation become seemingly rock solid?  Someone speculated that the earth was flat, and for years, that is what was taught and believed as fact.  Not too long ago, people speculated that those of certain skin colors were more or less superior to other people. And they thought they saw actions that supported the theories, so the theories seemed to become more and more rock solid until they became to be believed as truths. And for years, that is what was taught and believed as fact.

But it was not true of God’s creations.

The seeming rock solid truth was really a bunch of misperceptions and untrue thoughts piled and piled and hardened to form a seeming truth.

Though they seemed rock solid, the lattice of ‘facts’ holding the ‘truth’ together was not.  Like a diamond, they seem hard but their bonds were actually somewhat weak.

This is kind of fascinating – diamonds are one of the hardest things we know of.  Graphite, which is made up of the same stuff that diamonds are (carbon), is softer than diamonds (think pencil lead).  Even though diamonds are harder, graphite holds up better under fire.  Weird, huh?  This is because diamonds’ carbon-to-carbon bonds are weaker than graphite’s carbon-to-carbon bonds, so oxygen can separate the carbon molecules of diamonds more easily than it can those of graphite.

This means that if your diamond rings were to burn on a lump of graphite, you would end up with a lump of gold from the ring sitting on the lump of graphite… but the diamond would be gone forever as a carbon+oxygen combo: carbon dioxide.

Fascinating.

Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry (he discovered that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen), put a diamond in jar of oxygen.  He focused a ray of sunlight on the diamond via a special (enormous) magnifying glass, and poof!  It became CO2 and disappeared.

Crazy, huh?  Crazy that a diamond, which seems so rock solid, can literally vaporize with some strong light.

So these perceptions that we may have of another person that seem rock solid… are they?  If some Sonlight {I couldn’t resist : )} is focused on them, will they remain as solid as they seem to be?  Or will their hardness dissipate under the Light?