Have you heard of Relient K? I don’t know if you grew up in the Church, but if you were a coming-of-age Christian in the early 2000s then the chances are you listened gleefully to many a Relient K song in your church’s van on the way to a mission trip. I listened to Relient K at a Christian summer camp I attended for many years. The band is goofy and upbeat and still as much fun to dance like a dweeb to as they were when I was an awkward adolescent.
Recently, a friend and I spent a portion of our Saturday night forcing a houseful of guests to listen to old Relient K songs while the two of us danced around like mad women. It was very fun (and a Saturday night activity I highly recommend). But one of the songs caught my ear and it’s been bugging my brain ever since.
“She’s so pretty but she but doesn’t always act that way
her mood’s out swinging on the swing set almost every day
she said to me that she’s so happy it’s depressing
and all I said was ‘someone get that girl a mood ring’”
Get That Girl a Mood Ring
Relient K’s enduring classic “Mood Ring” focuses on a time honored problem experienced often on college campuses and beyond: guys don’t understand girls. (Don’t worry, we don’t understand you either.) But the band focuses their lyrics and confusions on the seemingly erratic nature of women’s emotions, singing over and over throughout the song, “Let’s get emotional girls to all wear mood rings.”
Now I know that this song is fun and the band hardly meant anything offensive by their lyrics, but this sentiment reflects a deep problem within the Christian church as I see it. Emotions are often overlooked and young women, generally the more emotional breed of person (though not always of course), are often devalued for their emotions. We are taught to soak in the insignificant nature of our emotions and to see our feelings as something bad or fickle or weak. We repeat mottos like “faith is fact, not feeling” and tell one another that we need to trust Jesus, no matter what our emotions tell us because our emotions are not always to be believed.
To some degree, I concur. Sometimes I don’t feel like loving Jesus, but that doesn’t make Him any less real or true or lovable, of course. However, I think these mottos negate the importance of emotional intelligence. We can learn things through our emotions. We can experience Jesus and know Him through how we feel and in ways we could never through intellectual investigation alone.
I feel the burden of the Church’s dismal of emotions. 2013 wasn’t really my year and I spent the majority of this past year deeply emotional and often upset (ask me sometime about how I would sometimes start uncontrollably crying in the cubicle I worked in and hope no one would wander in to witness my craziness). I was either depressed or anxious or crazy angry or wild with joy or just plain nutso. I had a lot of emotions. And I felt really bad about it. I was so jealous of my friends who never showed their emotions. I wished to be like them: calm and cool and collected. I felt guilt—real and confusing guilt—over my inability to rein my emotions in.
This past year, I often prayed that God would heal me instantly and fix my “erratic” mental state. Because I wanted control back; I wanted to regain my authority over how I felt. God responded, simply, “no.” When I so desperately wanted to be “okay” again in some Western, socially appropriate sense of the word, God told me instead that He was going to love me patiently and take care of me and teach me things through my emotions. God reminded me how emotional He is. The Bible is filled with moment after moment that display God’s emotions. Jesus turns over the tables of the vendors in the temple with anger (Matthew 21: 12-13). God rejoices over His people with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). And of course, Jesus weeps over the death of a friend (John 11:35).
God has emotions too and He doesn’t try to turn them off or ignore them. He doesn’t degrade or dismiss them. God sees the importance of His emotions, and I think He sees the importance of our emotions too—the ones we love, like the joy of worshipping Him, and the ones we could live without, like the sadness over our own sin. There is much to be learned from how we feel, so let’s stop shoving the emotions God has given us deep down into a hole in our heart, where they will surely pile up and explode eventually. Instead, let’s learn to love God boldly and fully and fearlessly with every single one of our emotions—the ones we like and the ones we don’t.
Annie is a recent graduate of the University of Texas, who has since moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. In addition to dealing with Longhorn-haters, she also works at a magazine and drinks at least a pot of coffee a day. Annie loves mentoring women especially, and spends a lot of time thinking about the place of women in the Church.