Earlier this year, we ventured to Cancun. One morning, I put on my running shoes, bounded out the door of the resort, and plugged myself into an audiobook. During that Cancun trip I enjoyed a long, easy 10-mile run around the neighborhood where our resort was located. I
I listened to Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a book I read a year earlier during my depressed season of 2017. I felt I needed to review the contents. I had no idea how useful his insights would prove to me personally
Scazzero observes that many Christians walk through life with an under-developed emotional center. He reminds us, first of all, that we are multifaceted people- each of us having various components:
Most of us readily identify with four of these areas. However, Scazzero confesses what a many of us could likely say about ourselves: “I had been taught the way to approach life was through fact, and feelings, in that order… [feelings were] dangerous and needed to be suppressed.” Whereas we don’t need to make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings we need to acknowledge our emotions were given to us by God.
I remember a Gospel tract I saw when I was a kid. Gospel tracts are small brochures designed to tell people about Jesus. An entire page in the back of the religious pamphlet was designed to explain how we might not always feel “saved.”
The writer used a train to illustrate the point, making the analogy simple:
Both of these are needed. Without facts the train won’t have an engine. Without faith that engine will never catch spark and do what it’s designed to do.
There’s another component to the train, though, the caboose. Yes, the tract suggested feelings are the final part of the train.
“The train will run with or without the caboose,” the author explained.
Think about it. What is the purpose of the caboose? I see trains all the time coasting through our neighborhood without one.
But in life?
Are feelings really unnecessary? Are our emotions unneeded?
Now, I don’t know that the author of the brochure was making that argument. But, I do believe that’s where we’ve taken things. We need the facts; we need faith; we can take or leave the feelings.
If we leave feelings out of the equation our emotions become underdeveloped. That can be tricky.
Let me explain it like Scazzero does…
He graciously observes that if we see someone with a physical handicap we make concessions for them. We go out of our way to assist the man sitting in the wheelchair or the woman walking with a cane. We help people wearing casts and braces and other signifiers that their body is in repair.
He also reminds us that we usually notice people who have intellectual struggles. We assist them, too. Whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette syndrome, or even a learning disability, we embrace people and help meet their needs.
In church and religious circles we learn to do the same with people who struggle spiritually. We answer their questions, we point them to truth, and we walk with them through their struggle. Their “issues,” too, are generally obvious. They voice them as they express doubts and concerns.
Finally, Scazzero notes that we make concessions for people who may be socially or relationally awkward. We understand that some people are just… well… odd. We offer them the benefit of the doubt- and loads of grace.
Now, one of the primary reasons we are able to extend such grace in the four scenarios above is because…
Scazzero says emotional health often goes unseen- particularly when spirituality is present. In fact, he argues that people with a regular religious routine may actually go more unnoticed when emotionally unhealthy. Spirituality often masks emotional unhealth- even unintentionally. If you look good spiritually, people assume you’re fine emotionally.
In other words, going back to the two points above-
For years- no, decades- this is where I was. I left a wake of hurt and pain behind me. This wasn’t due to the religious things I taught. Rather, it was connected to the way I handled myself emotionally.
“The stuff you taught was right on,” a previous co-staff member recently told me, as we reconnected after 7-plus years of total silence. “There was something about how you were doing things, though…”
The lying, the dishonesty, the manipulation… the bullying, the blaming, and the finding my identity and worth in what I did as opposed to who I am… Those are all emotionally-based issues. I’ve seen that my total health, including my spiritual vitality, will never be higher than my emotional wholeness.
Listen in to this talk and learn more…
Or, dive deeper by going to the talks where I share my story (https://www.Jenkins.tv/blog/59)
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