Friday, December 05, 2008

Faith, Feelings and Wooden Hippos

It doesn’t feel much like December, let alone Christmas, here in Zambia. Its hot out, really hot, and everything is green and there are none of those wonderfully delightful and not the least bit annoying Salvation Army bell ringers anywhere to be found. Plus, there are no green and red lights lining the tops of peoples houses (which are, of course, meant to commemorate Rudolph safely leading the wise men to the baby Jesus). There are no giant inflatable snowmen or Candy Canes adorning peoples yards (which are, of course, meant to inform your neighbors that you are a raving lunatic – not that there is anything wrong with being a raving lunatic, mind you).

Worst of all its not cold, and Christmas without cold is like egg without nog. Whatever that means.

But despite the appearance of things it is Christmas (almost) and we are doing our best to have a sense of that. But I’m amazed at how much my state of mind is dependent on my surroundings because I find myself wishing that I FELT like it was Christmas more than I do. And I realize that, despite my best efforts to hide it beneath a healthy layer of Old Spice, feelings really do tend to run my life.

Of course I know that men aren’t supposed to even have feelings beyond a psychopathic attachment to sporting teams that leads some of us to wear giant blocks of cheese on our heads, paint our entire bodies blue and fly enough flags from our SUV’s that people might have mistaken us for the President had it not been for the cheeze whiz dangling from our beards.

Now any preacher worth his salt (by the way, how much salt is a preacher worth, anyway? I mean, is there a place where you can buy salt and can pay for it in preachers?), will be glad to remind us that as Christians we’re not to operate on our emotions, on what we feel like doing. No. We who follow Christ are to operate by faith not feelings. Right?

Well, sort of.

The problem with that idea is that we’re left thinking that feelings are our enemy, or as if Faith and Feelings are the names of a couple of Pro Wrestlers who hate each others guts and are forever smashing chairs over one another’s heads. But is that the way it really is? I’m not so sure.

I don’t think faith and feelings are opposite ends of the good/bad spectrum. Now they’re not the same thing, that’s certain. But I do think they compliment each other. I mean, imagine where faith would be without emotions. Imagine worship void of emotion. It wouldn’t be worship at all, it would just be, well weird.

The truth is I cherish my feelings because they tell me who I am. My feelings tell me that I hate poverty because every time I see a Zambian kid who’s clothes are nothing but tattered rags, and who looks like he hasn’t eaten in a day or two, I get mad and I’m glad that I get mad. My feelings tell me that I care. When I see a street kid approaching me and I know that he’s going to ask for money, even though I’ve seen all the billboards and read the books that say that giving to kids like this only encourages them to continue to live on the street, I still wrestle with what to do – because life is more complicated than billboards would have us believe.

But the problem with emotions is not that we have them, but that sometimes our emotions are ill-informed and therefore we react based on what we think is true, and not based on what is true. And so the problem then is not an emotional problem, its an informational problem.

Today I went to the Road and Transportation Safety Office in downtown Livingstone, which is the place where you go if you need to renew your driver’s license or pay your road tax (which of course, is never used for the improvement of ANY road: perhaps they are saving it up in case the roads should ever get REALLY bad). Anyway, after waiting in line for about 20 minutes I was told that the computers were down and I would have to come back later.

As I was pulling out of the parking lot a guy came up to the window of my car and knocked. I scowled at him and continued to pull out of my parking space because I knew he was going to try to sell me something – either bootleg DVD’s, or a copper bracelet (Zambia is known for its copper) or a wooden hippo, and having all the bootleg DVD’s, copper bracelets and wooden hippos I will ever need, I did my best to ignore him and give him the distinct impression that I had no qualms about running over his foot if he became too persistent.

Finally though as I was backing out, I did role my window down (mostly to tell him to go away). When I did he informed me that the my presence was being requested by the folks in the Road and Transportation Safety Office. So, I grabbed my paper work and thanked the guy that moments ago I was ready to run over, and when I got inside they informed me that the computers were back up and they proceeded to process my request and in a matter of minutes my 2009 road tax was paid and I was on my way.

Not only was it a miracle that the computers came back up, but it was truly a miracle that they sent someone out to the parking lot to see if I had left yet, and even more of a miracle that that someone actually went and tried to catch me before I drove away. Things like this NEVER happen in Africa!

And as I walked back to my car, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that its starting to feel a lot like Christmas!

1 comment:

Joy said...

Jerry, thanks for letting the Holy Spirit guide you on what to write for this blog... I feel like you wrote this one just for me. In the past few weeks, I've done a lot of contemplating on faith and feelings. I love what you said about sometimes our emotions are ill-informed... so true. And I think we, as Christians, can really battle with recognizing the relationship between our faith and our feelings. Thanks again for writing this.

You two continue to amaze me. I love you both so much and am praying for you and your ministry to the beautiful Zambians who surround you!!!

Joy (and Forrister)