Wednesday, September 29, 2010


One time a professor of mine brought to class a picture of her favorite American President. As she showed it to us, she talked about Harry Truman’s presidency. She discussed the situation in which he came into office, his political party, and his accomplishments as president. After discussing all of this, she asked the class why we thought she was such a fan of Harry Truman. The answers she received were basically parroted back from he earlier presentation about his accomplishments and personality. After hearing our responses, she said we were wrong. Although she acknowledged the value of his contribution, his contribution was not the reason he was her favorite. Our professor said she loved Harry Truman because he looked like her “Papa.” She loved her papa, so President Truman was automatically lovable.

To me this is a great example of how emotions almost always drive behavior. Research has shown that the emotional parts of our brains are involved in a lot more than just happiness, sadness, and anger. These same systems play a vital role in how we process the world around us every minute of the day. People whose brain injuries have disconnected their emotional brain systems tend to become paralyzed with indecision and relational blindness. Similarly, some psychological disorders and psychoactive drugs can heighten emotional awareness to an unhealthy level leading to poor decisions and debilitating anxiety.

One part of the Shema Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:5) suggests that we love God with all of our hearts. Heart and emotion seem to be almost synonymous when Jesus quotes this passage in Mark 12:29. Jesus used the Greek word “psuche,” meaning the seat of feelings, desires, and affections.

However, God is not a soft teddy bear or a familiar face. Since our world is broken by sin, he does not always occupy an automatically lovable place in our hearts. Our hearts are dragged away by other things. Broken people have distorted our image of our true loving God. Jaded thinking can lead us to not feel emotionally about God, but derogate the creator of the universe to our negligible intellectual understanding. We forget to stand in awe.

I think we need to spend some time with our heavenly papa. Watch the sunrise and think of God. See his work in the ones you love. Say his name in song and prayer. Tell others how good he is. Ask your heart how it feels about God, not just your mind. 

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