Pondering The Expression of Emotions
by Greg Linscott
There is a world of difference between the imagery of “O Sacred Head” and say, “In The Garden.” What you call “brokenness” is the idea of penitence, which absolutely has a place in our piety. However, even in the psalms, penitence is not an emotional end in itself. Consider one of the most familiar psalms of repentance, Psalm 51:13-15:
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
Worship isn’t just to be moving; Emotions should constrain us to action. Consider the direction Watt’s marvel moved him to in “How Sweet and Aweful”:
Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.
It seems to me that the idea of “masturbatory” in our worship maligned by Wilson in the quote I provided reveals that this idea of purpose and direction in worshipful response is often lacking. Instead, it is the sensation- a type of spiritual glow, if you will- that is the pinnacle of our worship. Today’s music seems to focus on themes like the ecstasy of “Every Day is With Jesus is Sweeter Than The Day Before,” that never acknowledge the challenges and hardships, or a sense of intense longing, such as with “As The Deer” (based on Psalm 42:1), but without the resolution present in the completion of the themes of verses 2-11.
Over at MTC, you decry the “stoic repression” of emotion. While I understand what you are saying, perhaps the solution is not unleashing the floodgates. After all, meekness and temperance are fruits of the Spirit. Mr. Spock may not be the best role model for our worship, but neither is unrestrained, face-painted reveler in the football stadium, or the weepy, sentimentalist person who becomes a quivering wreck at the thought of “coot widdle puppies.”
The emotions, or as others have better said, the affections– must be guided and directed to the glory of God and the transformation and sanctification of our selves. Senseless, “stoic” repression is not wise- but neither is the loosing of all control and inhibition wise, either.