If you’re on social media at all then you’ve no doubt seen people using the phrase, “All the feels.” Basically, it means that some experience is causing you to have a strong wave of emotion, either positive or negative. Such as:
My little guy starts his 1st official day of tee-ball practice today & I’m havin’ all the feels.
Holding my baby for the first time. #allthefeels
Watching Les Miserables and having all the feels. Pass me another tissue box.
I’ve been noticing that the gospel writers themselves talk about Jesus having “all the feels” rather often. Jesus is clearly a very physical and emotional guy.
For instance, as the events of Jesus’s life and teaching lead inextricably toward a showdown with the Jewish leaders we find him in the garden of Gethsemane overwhelmed with sorrow. The text tells us, “He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground” (Luke 22:44 CEB).
It’s almost too much to look at. I want to race past this scene. I want to find solace as soon as I can in the resurrection. But for once I make myself dwell here and see Jesus, “being poured out like a drink offering” his body so racked with the raw emotions of fear(?) and sorrow that he can no longer stand.
He’s a pool on the ground, liquid Jesus, tears, sweat, blood.
Here he is, in the presence of his Father, having “all the feels” and his body a perfect mirror of those painful emotions. I pity Jesus, but there’s another feeling, too. I’m a little jealous, which kind of makes no sense, except that I wish I could deal with my negative emotions like Jesus.
(Note: Negative does not necessarily mean “bad”. It is a gift from God that we can experience the whole range of emotions. The truth is, though, that more often than not, instead of us having feelings such as guilt, shame, fear, worry, anger, and pride, these feelings have us.)
I’ll go ahead and blame it on my society which has programmed me (in truth, I’ve allowed to program me) to take as my mantra, “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful” and then exude this facade with unswerving confidence. Deviate from this and risk esteem, marketability, and friendship.
But when I’ve lived this way for far too long, my heart with all of its undealt with negative feelings becomes a rusty junk heap in my body, causing headaches, muscle tension in my back and neck, irritability, and indigestion. Of course, I don’t show that either. I have to have control.
But then again there’s Jesus and I have an inkling that what he’s showing me in the garden is just maybe the way to abundant life. And it’s so simple. Not easy, but simple. One word:
This is what he does: in the presence of God he is aware of his feelings. He lets them come up without resisting the emotions, wanting them to be different, or feeling shame because of them. He stays with the feelings, and allows them to run their course. Jesus lets the feelings be there and permits his body to take a posture that is most helpful and natural. He surrenders his feelings to God, and continues to surrender until he comes to the place where it’s okay if it happens, and okay if it doesn’t, aka “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
He does this three times because it takes three times.
Afterward there is a noticeable transformation in Jesus. One moment he’s pouring his heart out in sadness, fear and desolation and the next moment Jesus rises up in the power of the Spirit. He says “Get up. Let’s go.” With unshakable equanimity he faces all that this wounded and fractured world can throw at him. He’s a Jesus who looks completely in control, but the truth is, he’s completely surrendered.
So this is my new practice: to follow in the way of Jesus when I’m feeling stuff like anger, worry, shame, annoyance and pride. Become more and more aware that God is always with me — that I am, at all times, surrounded by Love which is unlimited — and feel the feels. Let them run their course in the safe, loving presence of God and if at all possible bring my body into the moment with an appropriately helpful gesture. Continue surrendering to God until all the feels have run their course.
I’m going to have all the feels. But I’m not going to let them have me.