Saturday, August 30, 2008

Spirit and Emotion

"Be angry and sin not; may the sun not set upon your wrath." (Ephesians 4:26)

Your spirit goes in one direction; your feelings go in another. It is the spirit that counts! The feelings, says the shrink (my husband), are literally embedded in the tissues of your brain. They don't just go away. In fighting the good fight, we are literally battling our own bodies. The point is to keep fighting.

But if we become spiritually advanced, aren’t the feelings eventually supposed to fall in line with our true will? Yes, and eventually they will. But it takes a very long time for this (literally physcial!) healing to happen. In the meanwhile, the doctor says, a key thing is not to stimulate your bad feelings, not to keep nursing them or even thinking about them. Starve them out!

I know this is true, because long ago, while I was still a catechumen, there was a person I simply couldn’t forgive. I discussed it with a wise priest and he gave me various bits of advice long since forgotten. But what I remember clearly, because it startled me so, was what he said when I asked him shouldn’t I pray for this person? He said, “NO!”

“No? But didn’t Jesus teach us to pray for such people?”

“Yes, He did. But that’s for mature Christians. In your case, the applicable teaching is, ‘Flee evil.’ Every time a thought about this person begins to occur to you, wrench your mind away from that thought and fix your attention firmly elsewhere.”

So I did. For several years. And then, one night, the forgiveness just came – all unbidden, seemingly from nowhere, in a rush of tears.