I recently heard a wise, older pastor make a very helpful statement. He was remarking on the tension between loving God with our hearts and loving God with our mind and how they often seem at odds with each other. His insightful words were along these lines: “In disciplining your emotions and your intellect you are actually enabling them to go further; to go the distance.” My experience is that women, generally, are more likely to be kidnapped by their passions and men, generally, are the ones likely to be held hostage by reason. Both are lethal to biblically loving God, and while women may be snared in one arena and men in another, each of us must recognize that if we desire to succeed in this marathon of loving God, we must allow His Word to govern our heart and our mind!
Mr. Knightly certainly knew the difference between the sexes when he declared, “Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.” His observation is rather accurate; women tend to act upon their feelings, passions, and emotions; men tend to act upon reason, logic, and rationale. Thus, when a woman acts simply on the basis of passions, a man views it as rather silly, illogical, and imprudent. But, the women-folk could retort, “Women of passion, whatever you may choose to say, do not want stodgy husbands.” As Christians, our love for God ought to never be defined exclusively by our passions or our reason. After all, Christ commanded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). We cripple our affection for God when we become lopsided in either of these arenas. Not only that, but we are in danger of leaving our love for God and replacing it with love for our emotion or our intellect.
Practically speaking, when it comes to loving God, women are likely to immerse themselves in sappy “worship” music, while men are likely to open a book on systematic theology. Christian young women of today face a Christian music and book industry that preys upon the inclination of the fairer sex to gravitate towards emotive experiences and things that will stir their passions. We are all aware of the emotional manipulation that is often used by marketing firms in order to sell their brand: soft, gentle music; scenes of happiness, pleasure, or sweetness; and finally a number to call to order in the next ten minutes so that you don’t miss the amazing two-for-one offer. But are we aware of the more subtle manipulation that the Enemy of our souls would love to tantalize us with? In essence, Satan would love to have young women attending worship services, conferences, buying books, listening to Christian music, and overall being whipped up into an emotional frenzy that has more to do with perpetuating an emotional frame than it does with exalting, cherishing, and loving Christ. The enemy desires us to love the idea of loving God, and wants to keep us as far away from actually loving God. He wants young women to make their spiritual life revolve around the sustaining of feelings (which seem spiritual in nature), rather than feelings which revolve around the glorious Center of all things: Christ and His Word.
There are popular worship songs out there that leaves one wondering whether Jesus is actually God Almighty or just the latest boyfriend. It isn’t uncommon for some folks (often young women) to treat the crowned King of the universe as if He were a cuddly, little teddy bear in their prayers public and private. There are authors and preachers that advocate cultivating a “divine romance” with Jesus. The danger with much of this is that Christ did not command us, “Manipulate yourself into an emotionally pleasing state of being, using thoughts, songs, or books about Me.” He commanded us to “love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.” Seeking after emotional, spiritual experience after emotional, spiritual experience is the greatest way to paralyze your passions and never have emotional, spiritual experiences. All things must be brought into subjection to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of His Word. Our passions cannot rule us; the Bible must rule our passions.
Imagine a marathon runner only working out one leg. She trains it, tends it, spoils it, and nurture’s it. The other leg, however, she neglects, somehow cuts off nutrition to it, and frequently abuses it with the other leg. However, when the time comes to run the marathon, she will be utterly ill-equipped to run it. She could stand there perplexed as to why, after all her care and concern for her one leg, it isn’t sufficient to carry her far enough. She could get upset with her shriveled leg, curse it, or accuse it of always being the problem and for “hindering” her other leg. However, the problem isn’t with either leg; it is in her use of each leg.
God has given us two “legs,” and if we are to run a marathon of loving God, we’re going to need both “legs” (i.e. our heart and our mind). Indeed, as mentioned earlier, we must discipline our passions and our reason by submitting them to the Word of God. We ought to ask, “What does the Bible say I should rejoice over, weep over, mourn over, sorrow over, give thanks for, celebrate, meditate, etc.? What does the Bible say I should think upon, and even more importantly how I should think?” Ultimately, women that are set apart unto Christ are not also set-apart to their passions.
When you limit your pursuit of God to merely the pursuit of feelings about God, you are doing yourself a disservice, and you are doing your feelings no good either. Reason and passion were meant to augment, compliment, even nurture the other. A man who is all philosophy and no poetry will — in the end — find that his philosophy was, all along, illogical, unreasonable, and foolish. A woman who is all poetry and no philosophy will — in the end — find that her poetry was, all along, bland, dispassionate, and unsatisfying. We were made to feel and to think; one without the other soon leads to the demise of both.
Thus, learn to nurture and strengthen both “legs.” Read William Gurnall’s Christian in Complete Armour (the original version that is 850 pages long), then listen to some simple worship songs, then pick up an old hymnal at a thrift store and read through it, then go to an art museum, then go hike a mountain, then read Isaac Watt’s book Logic. The point is that robust intellectualism can only be robust if it is moderated by robust passions; and robust passions thrive and come alive where the intellect is employed in profound ponderings.
This is why even Paul, in Romans 11:33-36, breaks forth into poetic psalm and praise right in the thick of some of the deepest theological weeds of the Bible. It isn’t enough to merely know all the right answers; it must break forth into jubilant praise. Nor is it healthy to spout out mindless praise. Our worship must be informed by our knowledge of Who we are worshipping. A husband who knows nothing about the talents and abilities of his wife will have a hard time complimenting her; as he comes to know her more intimately, watches her walk through difficulties, and sees her triumphs and failures, his adoration and appreciation of her grows. We are commanded to love God with ALL our heart, soul, and mind, so may we not be negligent in any of these dimensions. In doing so, God will make a woman into a fountain of wise passion, and He’ll make a man into a spring of jubilant sagacity. Run the race well, and do it with both legs.