An old farmer and his wife always went to the county fair. And, every year they saw the same pilot offering to take people up for a spin in his airplane for $10 a ride.
Every year, the old farmer asked his wife to give him $10 so he could go up. Every year, the wife responded by saying ten dollars was ten dollars and they couldn’t afford to be so frivolous with what little money they had.
One year, he told her that he was now 80 years old and if he didn’t go up this year, he never would. She repeated again her line that ten dollars was ten dollars. At this point they got into an argument about it.
The pilot overheard them and offered to make them a deal. He would take them both up for free providing he didn’t hear one word from either one of them during the entire trip. If either of them said anything at all, they would have to pay him the $10. They agreed.
The pilot put them in, took off and during the course of the next fifteen minutes put that plane through every maneuver known to man, including flips, rolls, and nosedives. And he didn’t so much as hear a sound from them.
When they landed, he congratulated the farmer on not making any noise, and asked him how come they never said anything during all the maneuvers. The farmer said, “Well, I was going to say something when my wife fell out, but like she always told me, “Ten dollars is ten dollars!”
If you don’t feel the love you can’t act the love.
It’s not easy handling our emotions the right way. Too many people don’t let their feelings show, and yet most people are sure doing just that is the right thing to do. Of course we’re talking about our better feelings. Scripture agrees. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
It’s important we choose which emotions we’re going to follow. So often what arises first in us may not be best. It’s easier to get angry, to find fault, to tell others so and so is wrong and means to hurt others. But to do this is to take a chance on not just being wrong but on taking the wrong path.
As Proverbs 28:14 says, “A tenderhearted person lives a blessed life; a hardhearted person lives a hard life.”
We can’t be blessed if we’re not in our right emotions. The Lord can’t lead us in our right path if we aren’t listening to our best feelings. Question your immediate emotion on something. Be patient enough so that you give yourself a chance to see another way, and to feel a different possibility inside of you.
You know, life shouldn’t be just a 9 to 5 job. God didn’t create us as those whose truest concerns are above all duty and obligation and getting tasks done.
We’re created for freedom, love, creativity, inspiration, kindness, and peace that passes understanding. When God made you the Lord was dreaming of much better things than whether you were going to pass tests and keep things under control.
This is what we hear in today’s passage. I know our scripture reading is hard to understand. Paul was known in the Christian world back then to be hard to comprehend. He was a really deep thinker.
The fact is our reading is giving the theological basis for why true religion is about freedom and not about laws. Paul differentiates between Moses and Christ, between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The Christian faith should be viewed in terms of the Spirit, he says.
This can’t be seen in what Moses accomplished because, like a veil that’s been placed over their eyes, they are hindered from seeing through to what we really are. There is still a film, a surface that covers over the truth of religion that God really seeks.
Instead, all that can be seen is religion in terms of regulations and requirements. The laws of Moses haven’t uncovered God’s will for us beyond that of duty and obligations.
But what God did in Christ was, in so many words, to remove this veil, so that now we can see that what we were really created for was freedom and liberty. Christ reveals that God wants us to be transformed through the life of the Spirit in us. What we most deeply are and have always been has been lived, expressed, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This one life can now connect God to humanity and humanity to God as we have never been connected before.
But how often we resist. How often we keep wearing veils. Instead of loving the Lord, we’re willing to follow some rules. We limit the reach of the Spirit. We accept a rote structure for a joyful freedom.
In our personal lives we keep up the veil; indeed, we build walls between us and others. We’re afraid to trust. We fear being tender-hearted, sympathetic; afraid of showing these feelings.
We’re not romantic enough with our partners, nor close enough with our children, nor fond enough of our friends. We are too willing to feel hardness in our hearts and follow where it will take us but not the kindness in our souls and build our lives around it.
We separated ourselves from the gift of loving someone else even if it’s risky. We live out our lives trying not to make mistakes. We fear being transformed and to transform others by loving and caring and forgiving and believing in them.
Too often, the veil grows thicker, the wall higher.
But we don’t want to live like this. It hurts to be enclosed in hard places. Be willing to feel deeply again. Seek to live passionately once more. We want to the joy of feeling better and the freedom to live without fears.
As we all know, there are radio and TV shows where the audience gets the opportunity to hear about someone else’s emotional dilemma. The troubled guest will talk about something in his or her life they can’t figure out. Listeners will often find themselves incredulous that the person is having a tough time deciding what to do: “My boyfriend is an alcoholic, can’t keep a job, beats me, and I suspect has other girlfriends—but I love him and I want to marry him.” It’s so obvious to the rest of us, and yet….
It’s hard not to believe this person is an actor portraying a fictional character in order to keep TV or radio ratings high. But they’re probably not. What seems so obvious to everyone else still isn’t to them. Someone in this type of bind needs prayer, and compassion.
They’re not alone.
The thing is it’s not easy to understand our own emotional life sometimes. We’ve all heard it said that a feeling like anger is only an emotion, and emotions are basically neither right nor wrong. They just are. We’ve been taught that what we do with our emotions is the real issue.
We need to be wiser toward our emotions than this.
You see, a lot of people think emotions are like clouds. They roll across the landscape of our hearts and minds as if they popped up on their own. But that’s not true.
Clouds come from the ground first. They rise up first as condensation or evaporation from land or sea. They rise high enough to reach cool enough
air and then start to form into visible water vapor, or clouds. As they rise, they also start to float across the sky. We may only see clouds when they are floating across the sky, but they started from the ground up.
The truth is emotions don’t just pop up out of anywhere. They don’t have a life of their own that we have to listen to and obey. They rise up out of us. In fact, quite often we manufacture our feelings.
What I mean is we respond to what’s going on around us, to what someone has said, to what we’re looking at, to what someone does. And we do this in an organized, habitual pattern.
Someone might say, “But my feelings come so fast. They have to be the necessary or the right ones by how fast they come.” The truth is our feelings are generated so quickly not because they’re necessarily right but because they’re habitually patterned. We’re on emotional automatic.
Here’s the thing: If our habitual pattern is healthy, then our feelings arising from some experience will be healthy. But if our customary interpretation or response to someone or something is not healthy, you can bet the emotion arising from it won’t be either. Emotionally speaking then, good clouds arise from good ground while stormy clouds arise from stormy seas.
We don’t need to be victims of our emotions however. You don’t need to be captive to what they’re telling you. Doubt whether you need to be angry at someone, or envious of someone else. Distrust your feelings of lust as normal, and your sense of greed as expected. We no longer need to follow our habitual response to others. We can get out of our rut.
Many couples are in a rut because they’ve lost a tenderheartedness toward each other. They no longer follow their love instinct. We live with our spouse or partner but really only live alongside them. We don’t live in them and they don’t live in us.
Couples agree with each other; they stay out of each other’s way; they go along in order to get along. But the tenderheartedness toward each other is hard to find. It’s not really possible to love your wife or your husband or partner without letting them get to you, in a good way.
Don’t put your beloved in the category of merely belonging. There’s no heart in that. Rekindle your emotions toward each other. Stop skating on the surface of your relationship. There’s no feeling in that. Find where the love is for her. Return to the romance that burned before. That’s where you’ll find
the joy you’ve been seeking, and the blessings God has been holding in store for you both.
We all need to take down our wall. Lift up your veil. Rise higher than obligations with your loved ones. Sink deeper than duty toward others. Go beyond mere obedience to the Lord.
Instead, be loyal to love. Find the source of freedom within. Set your course in Christ, who even while we were still far from him died for us, that we might know the depths of God’s love. This is the love we have within us. It’s who we are and what we want to feel, express, and share. It’s where we meet the Spirit and the Spirit of God leads us.
Can the church say Amen?