Struggling with Emotions

18 03 2008

I find myself sometimes, to counter the boredom of driving, turning on my car radio and, to avoid the boredom of wall to wall music, tuning to Radio 4, that refuge for middle class, middle aged (and older!) listeners who suggest that ‘content’ is better than pure noise. Thus it has been that twice recently, indicating the time of day when I obviously don’t do anything else, I found myself listening to a writer rambling on about self-centred death. Now I say ‘self-centred’ because his whole outlook on life seemed remarkably self-focused and as he talked about his family, it became obvious that they too were remarkably self-orientated. So, it was that even when he contemplated death it seemed remarkably self-centred, and never got to asking the big questions such as, “Is this all there is?” or “What follows?” I spoke of him as rambling because I know I do it sometimes in writing and I recognise it in others. There seemed little point in this rambling because, like a circular ramble in the woods on a Sunday afternoon, it seemed to go nowhere. Along this ramble there seemed to be little sign posts that popped up saying, “I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God.” Perhaps that explained his aimless, self-orientated revelation. I struggled to identify my emotions listening to this aimless filling of the airwaves.

My emotions late on Saturday evening were quite specific, watching Sport Relief, and in particular the Top Gear Team’s contribution to the evening, parodying a Ground Force programme by outrageously devastating Steve Redgrave’s garden. Undoubtedly some of the funniest TV in a long while, shades of the Crazy Gang at work. Laughter was mixed with doubt. Did they really create all that mayhem without the permission of the Redgraves, and was there a secret agreement that we’ll make it good later on? Emotions on the loose were good.

The news about a little girl being found after weeks of police frustration, probably created the most varied mix of emotions of the past week. First there was thankfulness that she had been found. Then there was wondering how it had happened, then there was wondering of a different sort as the details about her family started to come out. Finally emotions were all over the place as there came much media comment about dysfunctional families. Tragically in our permissive and often crazy society today such families are not uncommon. Multiple children from multiple fathers. If we stop and think about these children living in these emotional wildernesses, we’ll  weep. 

And, almost overshadowing everything else, the subject of collapsing banks hit the headlines and the media seemed to wind up the crisis. I suspect for many, worry gave way to confusion. As I watched the  news last night, I was left with a sense that most of the reporters hadn’t a clue about what the significance was of a bank collapsing in the States. I used to teach economics and so I was sitting there thing, so what does that mean, as they details rolled out. The level of commentary was remarkably shallow. Are the various TV companies now giving instant economics courses to their news staff because so far, they don’t look very competent. If you are like me, your response when watching such news reporting, will probably be a mixture of frustration and irritation: “If you say this is so important, tell me the possible practical consequences as they are going to affect me!”

It is an insecure world. Tomorrow I could catch flu or have an accident. Tomorrow some drunk in the street could assault me. I hope these things won’t happen but the truth is we just don’t know what tomorrow will hold.  To cope with the uncertainly many of us retreat into our self-centred ramblings. Some of us retreat into pleasure and laughter to shut out the awfulness of so much of modern life. Some, like those identified in the dysfunctional family syndrome reporting, grab at any friendly body whatever the consequences, regardless of what pain may be caused to others. Some of us watch the cloud of doom over our finances grow ever bigger with a sense of helplessness. Such is life in the twenty first century.

This would all be very depressing if that was the only view of life that is possible. It is the viewpoint of Solomon in jaded old age who wrote, “I have seen all thing things that are done under the sun, all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Eccles 1:14). By then, for him, all he had was a godless mentality and it left him feeling jaded. I have been looking again this week at the works of some of the crusading atheists of our time and have been struck by their anger, their hostility and their frustration and it has crossed my mind that they echo Solomon’s sentiments, and that is sad.

I have also been contemplating Easter because we are rushing towards an early Easter Sunday this coming weekend. Jerusalem in the week before this weekend that we will be remembering (well some of us at least), was a hotchpotch of mixed emotions and those emotions seemed to get ramped up more and more until the explosion of ‘Good’ Friday, and then all was quiet. The events of Easter Sunday defied the imagination and caused the greatest reversal of emotions in the whole of history. The BBC is showing their version of the Passion. I have heard rumours or hints that the resurrection may not quite live up to the reality of history, we’ll see. 

Mel Gibson’s The Passion, apart from being a ghastly, emotion numbing horror film, similarly held back at the resurrection. Of course unbelievers or half-believers hold back at this most challenging event in history. Thank goodness that the Bible itself doesn’t hold back. It, unequivocally, declares that he was raised from the dead, proclaiming to all who would hear it, that he was and is the living Son of God, and because he is, we can look back on the wonder of the Gospels with eyes of hope – God had come, God has shown that He loves us and accepts us in all of our self-centred need, and that He’s here for us today. 

So life may be uncertain, life may appear tumultuous, life may appear painful as we go our own foolish self-centred ways, but there is another way and He is there – as always – with His arms of love out to us, to draw us to Himself, to bring peace to us, healing to us, forgiveness to us, and the possibility of loving order that brings sense, sanity and security to our lives in an otherwise often crazy world. Have a good Easter!





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