Fully Human or Connected Soul

What does it mean to be fully human? I mentioned this idea in the second post and I want to elaborate. I have come to realize there are so many people who are not fully human. They are disconnected souls.

What do I mean by that? What is a soul? Now, theologians and philosophers can give you many answers to that question, but the way I think about it simply is that a soul is composed of three aspects: mind, will, and body. These are the three aspects of human nature.

Now, here’s the thing, I am realizing so many of us have disconnected souls. Specifically, there is a disconnect between the mind and the body. And when I say body, it includes the nervous system which is related to our emotions. So there’s a disconnect between what we think and what we feel. This is a disconnected soul. Others use the phrase ‘disembodied soul’ to convey the same idea.

In my experience, I was trying to drive my life by my thoughts and my will, to the neglect of my emotions. Why? I think I was kind of trained to do this. Here is an image from a popular tract that many Christians have used for decades.

In this illustration, you can see what leads the train. It is facts, which is a faculty of the mind. Next, comes faith, which we can say is a faculty of the will. And finally, there are feelings, which is merely a caboose that is passively carried along by the previous two. Here is how the illustration is explained:

“The train will run with or without the caboose. However, it would be useless to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, as Christians we do not depend on feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the promises of His Word.”

Now I don’t completely disagree with this description of the relationship between fact, faith, and feelings. We absolutely need to prioritize the trustworthiness of God’s word over everything else. There is also a sense where we cannot control our feelings so that they are carried along by what we think and do. But while the tract does not explicitly say it, the message seems to be: “do not trust your feelings.” If that is the message received, this will lead to disaster. I’ve come to realize that feelings do not lie. Feelings are like a thermometer. They tell you the temperature. When you bump into something, and your foot feels sharp pain, that’s your body’s way of telling you, “Hey! Don’t do that again!” We don’t suppress that feeling and continue to kick the hard object. Well, unless you’re doing martial arts. In a similar way, when you feel angry, anxious, or frustrated, your body is telling you there is something wrong. The feelings are not wrong, they are telling you something is wrong. Thus, they should not be suppressed, ignored, or denied. Feelings don’t lie. You are feeling that for a reason. And what is imperative is getting to the real reason that is causing you to feel that way. Now, the reason may be wrong. But the feeling is not. Whatever you feel, you feel for a reason. Therefore, the goal is to understand the reason behind the feeling, and then, you can deal with whether the reason is right or wrong.

This is a revolution for me. “I am feeling this way for a reason.” Understanding this simple connection between the feelings and the mind is huge. Understanding this connection leads to a connected soul. My tendency in the past, however, was to say, “Anger, that’s a bad feeling. Make it go away.” And then I would proceed to rehearse some bible verses. And the feeling might eventually go away for a while. But then, it would come back some other time when it was triggered. The problem with such an approach, was that I was burying the emotion, instead of getting to its root.

Now, to be clear, I am not saying the bible is insufficient. So I am not saying that God’s word didn’t work. What I am saying, is that God’s word (both written and living in the person of Christ) gives us permission to be fully human. And that means instead of suppressing or denying our emotions, there is a biblical and Christ-centered way to process them.

Consider Christ when he was praying in Gethsemane before his crucifixion. He takes his three closest companions to pray. What we don’t see is Jesus pretending like everything is ok. We don’t see Jesus saying, “The Bible says to rejoice at all times, and so I’m going to rejoice now!” That would be hypocrisy. Instead, we see Jesus being fully human. He was sorrowful and troubled, and his friends could visibly see it (Matthew 26:37). And then he verbally expressed that sorrow to them (Matthew 26:38). And then, in his prayer, he is fully honest with God about his desires. He doesn’t want to be crucified. He doesn’t want to drink the cup of God’s wrath for all the sins of the world (Matthew 26:39). And in Luke’s account, Jesus is so stressed that he was sweating blood (apparently the condition called hematohidrosis).

Christ was fully human. Which means he was a fully emotional person who did not suppress his emotions, but found good and healthy ways to express them and process them. He shared with his friends and he wrestled with his feelings in his prayers. And he did this until he came to a point of transformation where he had fully surrendered his will to God and could then approach the cross in perfect peace. It’s really amazing when you think about the kind of peace and fearlessness Jesus had in facing the cross. But it was only after he had fully acknowledged his feelings, and worked through them. Jesus was a connected soul.

And so that is my discovery. First, we need to acknowledge what we are feeling. And then, we need to find a way to process those emotions so that we can come to a place of peace. And if we find that way, we can obey God even as sincerely, and freely, and joyfully as Christ obeyed to the point of even dying on the cross. Jesus didn’t suppress his feelings. And Jesus didn’t merely vent his feelings in rage. No, he worked through them. He processed them. He transformed them. That is the pattern we are to follow.

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