Beyond Emotion

Lately I've enjoyed some sweet times of worship on two different continents, in two churches (CCD | OCC), and within two cultures. Not only did I enjoy entering into worship, I loved watching it well up and pour out in response to God's presence. I saw people moved from passiveness, perhaps indifference, to passionate response.

Of course, some people are more passionate and demonstrative than others, not unlike at sporting events. You've probably seen cameras pan the crowd to focus on fans painted up and wearing outrageous outfits. But not all fans are like that.

The great thing about worship compared to sports events and entertainment, is being a participant rather than a spectator. Sure, some people in worship services may appear more like spectators than participants, but not everyone expresses themselves the same.

In my own life I've noticed various levels of response in worship, prayer, and even in fellowship with other believers. Much of the time it's due to whatever spiritual and emotional state I'm in. Typically, expressiveness in spiritual environments (church services, prayer meetings, etc.) is linked to emotions (or lack of them).

People are emotional beings, and in the same way we are created with a spiritual capacity. Denying our emotions is neither useful nor healthy, nor is being governed by emotions beneficial. I believe it's healthy for some emotional response to be part of a spiritual experience.

But what happens after the emotion has waned? What takes place beyond the moment? If emotion is attached to some spiritual truth, how does it transfer beyond that experience? Or does it? How does a person move beyond emotion? How can we remain moved in our heart in response to God's goodness?

An expression of emotion tends to be temporary. If I'm moved during a time of worship, how can it benefit me in daily life? When I'm moved in prayer, whether intercession for someone or in response to God's guidance, how will it translate into action? As is said by some, how do I "put feet" on my prayer?

An especially important question is in response to God's conviction in my heart. How does this conviction produce any enduring spiritual fruit? The simple answer is—a commitment to action. This is how to move beyond emotion. The more difficult question to answer is—how is this done?

I've heard many suggest journaling. That may be a good 1st step, but then what? I'm not a journaler, but I do keep a notebook for thoughts, vision, notes, ideas and so on. But writing and doing are two different things. Even as a writer, moving beyond ideas to a finished product takes time and commitment.

I really don't know of any simple 3-point, 5-point, or 10-point, sure-fire method. We're all different. How you approach putting truth (or ideas, etc.) into practical action may differ from how I or someone else does. I make lists, bullet-pointed plans of action, but I'm a procrastinator by nature.

I don't know what it takes to motivate you to move beyond emotion, or an internal stirring of the heart, to commitment and then take action. But whatever it is, you need to figure that out! Otherwise, you'll likely remain stuck in a state of limbo between emotional expressions and a spiritual free-fall of sorts.

Over the years I've learned to operate within certain personal disciplines. This provides a framework or practical foundation for moving beyond hearing and saying to doing. I'm not a believer in "one size fits all" when it comes to practicality. But I have learned some valuable guidelines.

These are simple, but helpful for me—

  1. Start small—don't try to do too much when starting out on something new.
  2. Do the simple thing first, don't get bogged down with what's more difficult.
  3. Build on what becomes useful and helpful, and try not to be distracted by what's not working or unfruitful.
  4. When you falter, fall back to what has been useful, and rebuild what "works" or is spiritually fruitful in your life.

This, to me, is the nature of commitment. It requires persistence and perseverance. It's a way to move beyond emotion to spiritual growth and maturity. You may find or already have other things that help you. If you don't, give these a try and then develop your own ways. God hasn't made us all the same, but He has created us all in His image.

Are there useful, fruitful ways you've found to move beyond the emotion of the moment?