Monday, March 29, 2010

Balancing Deep Emotions

Today, we celebrate Palm Sunday. We read the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem, with the crowds waving palm branches, placing their cloaks as a red carpet while shouting "Hosanna!".

Jesus descended into the city from the Mt. of Olives riding a donkey. A donkey was an animal used by kings during times of peace, as opposed to riding a horse in times of war. Hosanna was a cheer that meant, "Save us". This story points to a crowd believing that their promised Messiah was entering the city to enter in an era of triumph over the Roman Empire.

Yet we know that this story ends with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Holy Week is an intense week of balancing the extreme emotions of life. Joy, Triumph, sadness, shock, abandonment, resurrection.

The Scripture readings we used in Sunday's service included Zechariah 9:9-10, Luke 19:28-40 and II Corinthians 4:7-12.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church identifies some paradoxes which help us in our pursuit of balancing emotions. He described himself as "hard-pressed, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed".

A good sports coach will guide his or her team throughout a season, reminding them that their not as good as their best victory nor as bad as their worst defeat. It is tempting to think that you will be a champion because you played a game where everything went right, or to think that you have no chance when your team gets beat badly. But the dynamics of competition are such that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

As we balance our emotions, this model of sports is helpful. Each day has its moments of triumph and struggle, hope and despair. We are not as great as our most triumphant moments, nor as bad as our worst moments. We are to balance our emotions, and by faith, keep focused on the goal.

We move forward by faith. If we live purely by our emotions, life will be like a never-ending roller coaster, with high peaks and low valleys. We are so fragile as human beings, with our emotions changing like the coming and going of the wind. Faith shapes our self-understanding.

Faith is forging ahead
  • fighting against injustice, not fleeing problems
  • embracing challenge, and encountering strength to endure them
  • seeing our plans, in light of God's plans
  • today, with a hopeful future in mind
  • remembering the past, not living in it
  • strengthened by the vision of new reality
  • when sad, not hopeless
  • when afraid, fearing God alone
  • when joyful, because of God's promises

If we try to be totally happy all the time, we will actually decieve ourselves, because it is impossible to be happy all the time. Perhaps the best route to take when balancing our emotions is to identify what emotion is at work within us, and acknowledge that emotion before God. For God is able to guide us through our valleys and also help us move mountains.

May each of us draw close to Jesus Christ this Holy Week.

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