I am an artist.
When I was in high school, I played at a little church in Homestead, Fl – “The Redlands” – and our praise team went through Rory Noland’s book The Heart of the Artist. I didn’t appreciate Rory’s book as much then as I do now.
Chapter Seven: Managing Your Emotions
This book is a terribly good and easy read, so I won’t try to restate it – just get the book and read for yourself. Instead, I will highlight what is meaningful for me right now.
“If the church is going to embrace people with artistic temperaments, we’ve got to stop sending them underground with their feelings.” (p. 206)
Recently, I was at a meeting where we were supposed to share about something, and because nobody else was sharing, I shared – and, well, as usual I overshared. It was all honest and heartfelt, but I perhaps shared too much history with people who were new the overarching group and well…afterwards, I got heat from my friends about it, and during the meeting I got heat from my friends about it, and suffice it to say I ended up feeling some very strong emotions by the end of the night: rejection, negativity, hopelessness, loneliness…
My husband and I had a HUGE fight about what I expressed to him in the car on the way home because he didn’t know how to deal with or react to all of the emotions I was spewing forth to him. Things escalated, and he left our home for about 30 minutes and I expected him to come back with something – something “perfect” to say, something that made us both feel better, because that is usually what happens….but as a result, I hated what he had to say, or lack there of, and then I left the house and drove all the way to Thomasville and back.
To truly understand where I’m going next with all this, you’ll probably have to read the chapter (hint hint).
“To avoid being controlled by our feelings, I suggest we channel them into worship. We need to make a commitment to wroship the Lord regularly. Worship is an intensely emotional experience. Some of you have been expecting me to tell you to deny your emotions for the sake of your mental health. You’re just waiting for me to say, “Let’s be good little Christians and not get all wrapped up in emotion.” Instead I’d like to invite you to cut loose and experience the fullness of worship. Lose your emotions in worship. Get emotional about God.” (p. 210)
What I got from this was that (1) I’m going to be emotional sometimes, it’s a part of me (2) Emotions are good (3) Emotions need to be in control, not stifled, just controlled so we can operate in the world with non-artists, and (4) Worship is the way to make all of that work together.
I’ve been a worship leader at my church for a few years now. Particularly the last year, it’s been a subject I’ve been trying to understand.
But I struggle with it. Especially in the land of “the frozen chosen.” It’s not popular to let emotions run free here. Especially when I work with men all the time, who aren’t artists and don’t really understand them. So I think what I do a lot of the time is I cut out emotionally altogether. It’s as if I were Spock….that my emotions were so strong that I had to contain them with logic and reason because otherwise it’d be dangerous for me to interact with people.
Rory further suggests that living in the Psalms can be helpful to us because they were written by someone with an artistic temperament. David was an artist, with the sensitivity and desire to create and express that many of us have. He’s “a model of emotional freedom.” (p. 212)
“I am worn out from groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Ps. 6:6)
Rory goes on to say: “We artists must live in the psalms because they can recalibrate our concept of God. I am a different person after saturating my mind with the Psalms, because I come away with a more accurate picture of God. My problems might not go away, but they usually look different in light of who God is. I need an accurate view of God more than Ineed my problems solved.” (p. 212)
My greatest struggle right now is with myself. Sometimes I feel like Jonah, running away from God, afraid of what he wants me to do and say, not wanting to comply. So I disengage, I decline to worship, and my competence leads me through and allows me to complete my job with still flying colors.
But the trouble with that, of course, is that my emotions are still running wild. If I’m not finding my security in Christ, not worshiping God truly and regularly and submitting my cares to Him, then I am going to find my identity in a pot of soup (I made soup yesterday and it didn’t taste the way I wanted it to, and I felt like a failure because of it). A pot of soup!!!! How transient and crazy is that!!!!!