Today was an extraordinary day for me. It began at early church service where I thoroughly enjoyed the worship portion. Then one of my favorite speakers delivered a really good sermon. It was a solid word delivered with clarity, humor and, best of all, straight from the Bible. After church, I spent some time praying alone at the altar. Then my wife, daughter and I had breakfast at our favorite spot where we discussed the sermon and why it was such a blessing. After I got home, I had some time before the football games so I went down to my private space and listened to my “Vintage Gospel” playlist. It was at that time when the experience got really good. I felt tremendous joy as the songs led me into my own personal worship experience. I lifted my hands in praise. I cried, and I sang. It was very emotional. It felt like it was just God and I, and we were both enjoying it.
But that raises a question in some people’s mind – was that a true experience with God, or was it just Ellery being emotional. As a person given to frequent introspection, I used to ponder the same thing, and I resolved it in my mind years ago. But I suspect others still wonder. My own questions about this began with my upbringing. I was raised in a Pentecostal church, where people “shouted”, danced, and spoke in tongues. I have to admit, it was a very emotional environment. However, some people say that the charismatic experience is JUST emotional. Some scholars consider speaking in tongues as simply ecstatic utterances – people so charged emotionally that they simply babble unintelligibly. Some people see the dancing by the “saints” as little different from the meticulously rehearsed steps of various “stars” on the semi popular television show. But at best, they see these experiences as simply emotional outbursts. So to the question of is it an experience with God or is it emotions, I say…..it’s both.
To say that my experience this morning was JUST emotions relegates it to a carnal realm where I was just feeling especially good. The truth is, I WAS feeling especially good. I was thinking about my recent health scare and how it turned out so well. I was thinking about the words of the songs I sang. I was thinking about how good God has been to me and my family. And I responded emotionally. I was singing not only about God, but I was singing TO GOD. And it was emotional – but not just emotional. I felt more than just emotional. I felt something deeper and I responded to it with spontaneous, uninhibited emotion. And this emotional response is not to be looked down upon. Our emotions are part of our being. Jesus, responding to a question about the greatest commandment, said we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22:37). In other words, we are to love God with our full self. Jesus himself showed emotions like joy, sorrow, even anger. God shows emotion. And if you ask me, God is so great, so faithful, so merciful, so gracious, so loving; that experiencing Him stirs my emotions.