rugby emotion

Exactly one week ago the parade was making its way through Christchurch, with thousands turning out to celebrate the All Blacks' victory in the Rugby World Cup.

I've been thinking a lot about emotion in the intervening days.

What an array of feelings surfaced during the tournament. From the opening ceremony when that lad came out to meet Jonah Lomu wearing a Canterbury jersey (the single most enduring memory of the tournament for me) to the final twenty minutes of the final when a pervasive anxiety took over a nation. The land of the long dark cloud beckoned yet again. And then not for the first time in the latter stages of this tournament did the best team on the day lose. What drama it caused...

Then at a personal level there was so much happening. Surely the world's best player could not be cruelly injured out of the tournament for the third straight time? Yes, he was! What about that Stephen Donald, villified and crucified by all sections of the media and talkback radio a few months ago - but there he is sitting way down on the pecking order at fourth and yet he steps up to kick the winning goal? What about the French team advancing forward to the haka? And what a fine line it became between hero and zero, knighthood and exile, for Graham Henry?! And then how about Jock Hobbs? Saviour of the All Black brand in one decade; securer of the World Cup in the second; and then in the third decade he shows up, so seriously ill with cancer, to give Richie his 100th cap and to receive a special award from the IRB for services to rugby.

We could go on and on, couldn't we?! We haven't even mentioned the fans - whose emotion is so well-captured in this little piece:

I am well-wired to my emotions. It is a topic of great interest to me.

The post-resurrection narratives are my favourite resting places with emotion. In Luke 24 there is the despair of the two on the road to Emmaus. In John 20 there is the grief of Mary, the fear of the disciples, and the doubt of Thomas. Despair, grief, fear and doubt. Very human. Very basic. Very elemental - almost like the carbon:hydrogen:oxygen:nitrogen in the Periodic Table of Elements. So much that is damaging at the emotional level is some combo of these four. Full though each person is with one of them, each one drains away in the encounter with Jesus. Doubt becomes faith with a touch. Fear becomes courage with a presence. Grief becomes joy with a word. And those despairing hearts become burning hearts under the influence of an expository sermon from Jesus! It makes me love and worship Jesus so much more when I see such attention to individual human emotion at the very time when he could be showing-off his divinity and victory over death to a packed stadium somewhere.

Another resting place are the writings of Matthew Elliot. There is his more serious book: Faithful Feelings: Emotion in the New Testament.
"Emotions are a faithful reflection of what we believe and value. The Bible does not treat them as forces to be controlled or channelled towards the right things, but as an integral part of who we are as people created in God's image. Christian emotions should be the most intense, the most vibrant, and the most pervasive things we feel as they are based on the most important things in life ... Our emotions will show the reality of our faith.You will find believers living from their hearts at the core of the great moves of God in the New Testament and church history ... Emotion is not the opposite of reason and rationality; it is part of reason's very substance ...When Christian emotions are not present, or when harmful emotions are pervasive, it is a warning that the belief system which the New Testament presents has not been grasped, or valued" (264-268).

Elliot has also written a more popular, storied and interactive book: Feel: the power of listening to your heart. It is supported by a website with all sorts of resources and ideas. His quest has been to find the true role of feelings in the spiritual life. His conclusions?
"Our emotions were given by God to drive us to our best ... emotions are among the most logical and dependable things in our lives ... emotions give us a window to see truth like nothing else ... the true health of our spiritual lives is measured by how we feel. That is the great power in listening to your heart" (4-5).

nice chatting



Billy T said…
Hi Paul a great post very timely and thought provoking! I was just talking yesterday with a group of guys about how emotions are such a powerful thing. Yet as Kiwi males often we suppress them and show nothing. I think it was amazing to see emotion expressed at the RWC, but as I talked with this group yesterday we reflected wouldn't be even more amazing to see emotion and passion reflected in the way we live as followers of Jesus. We were talking about Luke 24 and how it says the two disciples hearts burned within them! as Jesus was talking with them I wonder what that would look like for us today?

Paul said…
Good to hear from you, Mike

A couple of comments come to mind. One would be to train ourselves to be more comfortable around the expression of emotion, including our own.

Another thought goes back to Luke 24. The emotion that caused despairing hearts to become burning hearts was nurtured by a fresh understanding entering the mind. Let that understanding trickle into the heart! I remember Chris Marshall saying how "the gap between his head and his heart is very small". I like that. It is the way it should be.

Best wishes


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