Meet my friends Mushy, Gushy, Ooey, and Gooey. Oh, and let’s not forget Messy and Complicated.
Today I am thinking specifically of feelings of the romantic kind. And I am going to be speaking primarily to young women, because I am intimately acquainted with our struggles in this area. I am going to tell you something that I hope will set you free. As young women, having and developing feelings for young men is both normal and healthy.
I don’t know what it is about developing feelings for a guy that drives me to an almost immediate sense of shamefulness, followed very quickly by a sense of urgency to suppress or root them out. I have learned that the shame, suppression, and rooting out are actually counter-productive to effectively dealing with my feelings. Over the past few years, God has been working in my heart to get my to look honestly at my feelings, and from this experience, I have learned to accept and work through my feelings. I’ve jotted down some observations.
- Feelings are natural. I used to think that my attraction or feelings for a guy translated directly to lust. Like, if I caught myself thinking, “That guy is good-looking,” I would instantly feel guilty and embarrassed about it. Hormones are a part of my chemical make-up and feelings are a part of my emotional make-up. I sincerely believe God created me to be attracted to and have feelings for certain men on a very basic level. So now when I see a guy I think is attractive, I don’t beat myself up. I try not to dwell on it, because that does turn into lust, but I’ve learned to recognize God’s hand in what I’m attracted to.
- Feelings are not always bad. It is generally considered that our hearts are the root of our feelings, and our hearts are “deceitful, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), and I grew up with the belief that my feelings were also bad. This was solidified long before I became a believer through a struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts as the people closest to me oversimplified my situation and labeled me as too emotional and negative. After getting out of a bad relationship, I learned not to trust my feelings about guys either. I became a believer four-and-a-half years ago, but recognizing the validity of my feelings has been a process. Last year, it sort of just clicked for me, and I’ve had tremendous victory in this area. Here’s the thing, since the instant of my salvation, I am not the person I used to be. My heart is no longer rogue, but ruled by Christ. I’ve said this a lot lately, but I’m repeating it because it’s important – Christ lives in me, I have the presence and conviction of the Holy Spirit in my life, so as long as I am surrendered to the will of God in my life, I can trust that God has a plan and purpose even in how I feel.
- Feelings are not a good foundation for a relationship. Granted, if I am in a relationship with someone I will have feelings for them at some point or another, but Mushy, Gushy, Ooey, and Gooey are fair weather friends. Those butterflies that flit around in my stomach as I get to know a guy I’m attracted to tend to disappear when we disagree or argue and Messy and Complicated show up. At that time, I will either choose to act on what I feel towards that guy, or I will act in a way that shows I care for and respect him. Of course, it’s okay and healthy to have feelings for the guy I’m with or just getting getting to know, but if they’re what I base my actions on, I’m in for a shallow and unsteady relationship.
- Feelings are opportunities for us to rely on God. I learned a few years ago that the best One to talk to about my feelings for any guy is God. I talk very candidly to God, because unlike when I talk to humans, I know He can handle it. God has challenged me when I talk to Him about these guys: “Does he love Me? Does his thinking about Me reflect right thinking? What are his life and ministry desires, dreams, and goals? Do they match yours? What does he think about your role in ministry and in a relationship? How does he feel about the things that are important to you (missions, adoption, foster care)? Does he share your burdens (inner city missions, artists, youth, foreign missions, college ministry)?” With every guy I have ever prayed about (whether just friends or getting to know each other more intentionally), God has walked with me through my feelings, helping me through them. Most importantly, He has never shamed or embarrassed me because of my feelings, He’s just given me perspective on them.
So don’t push those feelings away, own them and lay them before God. I’ve been told that can be awkward, and I guess at first it really is. But He wants to use your feelings to draw you closer to Him.
There is freedom in feeling. Who knew?