08 Nov I’m just not feeling it
Haven’t we all been here before?
It was a long night.
You have a long day ahead of you.
You have so many chores and tasks that are yet to be finished.
It’s beautiful outside – do you really want to waste part of your day inside when you could be out in this?
It’s gross outside – do you really want to get all dressed for church and go out in this?
There are a million different reasons that could produce this reaction, but ultimately, regardless of the stimuli, you just…aren’t feeling church today.
You just don’t feel like going.
Haven’t we all been there before?
There are some times we just don’t feel like going to church. Sure, we’ve got some things to do and reasons to just stay home, but those are just the presenting issues.
That’s what we’ll tell the folks who missed us or that’s what we’ll tell ourselves in the back and forth of our own minds but really, when it comes down to it, the real issue is not what needs to be done. The real issues are not the chores, the weather, or the various other responsibilities vying for our affection and attention and time. The real issue is that we just don’t feel like going.
It’s funny, because while “I don’t feel like it” is a totally unacceptable line of reasoning when it comes from our kids trying to get their way out of cleaning or eating their veggies or being nice to their siblings…it somehow becomes completely acceptable when it comes to us reasoning our way out of church.
But don’t get me wrong…
I hear you.
I get it.
As a pastor, I feel that too.
If I’m being really honest with you, there are times I sit in my car for a few extra moments and take a deep breath before exiting my car and entering the church because I’m just not ready yet.
My head isn’t in the right place.
My heart isn’t in the right place.
I just don’t feel like going.
Yes, even pastors feel this way, too.
And yet, I get out – because regardless of what I may feel, I know I’m in the right place among the right people.
You see, we say this all the time at church but it’s worth saying here as well:
Feelings are real but they are not necessarily reality.
Feelings are true but they are not necessarily truth.
You have every right to feel what you feel but that doesn’t mean your feelings are right; it doesn’t mean they are an accurate assessment of the deep needs of your heart. They are valid even when they aren’t right.
Currently, there is a group of us at the church fasting on Wednesdays because we want to see breakthrough and awakening in our church and city.
We want to see God move.
We want to see our hunger for God grow.
We want to see our community transformed by God’s grace.
We want to see our neighbors experience the power of God’s love.
We want to see God move like never before.
So we’re praying and fasting together.
Now, before you go thinking more of me than you should, let’s be clear: fasting is not a discipline I enjoy.
I like food.
I like food too much.
I get cranky when I don’t eat.
So as you can imagine, it’s great to be around me when I’m fasting.
This past Wednesday, I decided to keep track of all the feelings that arose during my fast. Here were some of them…
- I felt like fasting was stupid.
- I felt like fasting was a waste of time.
- I felt like God would understand if I ate a small lunch. (I was at a seminar and we all ate lunch together, so while they ate I had to explain repeatedly why I skipped our meal.)
- I felt bad for feeling that fasting was stupid and a waste of time.
These are just a handful of the feelings I felt last Wednesday during our fast, and every one of these feelings pointed to the same conclusion: break the fast.
Just eat. It’s no big deal.
And yet, I knew in my heart that God had called us to prayer and fasting as a community.
If I yielded to my feelings – feelings that were real, true and seemed very much legitimate in the moment – I would be settling for something less than what I believed God wanted to do in and through me.
God has given us feelings and for that we must certainly take them into consideration, but I’m afraid that far too often, we give in to how we feel without really wrestling with why we feel what we feel, and why feeling that emotion and enduring through it might just be necessary.
I’ve got to believe there’s a reason why immediately after Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew 16, Jesus follows it up with a word about self-denial.
Shortly after Peter declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus tells the disciples, “If anyone wants to come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.”
The call to self-denial certainly applies to more than just our feelings, but I am more and more convinced that at the very least, it must include our feelings.
As followers of Christ, we are called to follow God together, in community, so that through relationship with God and each other, we can grow our faith, deepen our hope, and encourage each other on toward love and good works (Hebrews 10:19-25).
Will there be days we don’t feel up to going to church? Will there be days we just don’t feel like it?
Absolutely – but we are not called to follow our feelings; we are called to follow Christ.
First and foremost, we are not called to be followers of our feelings; we are called to be followers of Christ.
There will be times when the call of God upon our lives and the way we feel about that call are not in alignment.
In those moments, we will need to decide who we will serve, who we will follow and who we will love.
Our feelings are real, but they are not necessarily reality. They are true but not necessarily truth. However, unlike our feelings which may be true but not truth, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
Our feelings come and go; let’s not allow our faith to follow the same pattern. Let’s come together to push past how we might feel at any given moment so we can be followers of Jesus – not our feelings – for the glory of God and the sake of the world.