Thursday, May 2, 2013

On Emotions and Instrument Panels

I am an emotional person. If you have read any of my other posts, you will laugh at this and say that I am merely stating the way too obvious. When I took the lengthy test for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I tested out a high "F" (for Feeling, as opposed to Thinking). In fact I tested out as high on the "F" scale as possible. My husband calls me one bundled up raw nerve ending. Sigh.

Being a feeling person is not without its benefits. I tend to be compassionate and caring and understanding in an often dog-eat-dog world. I guess God made me that way for a reason. But feeling things so deeply can have its down side. Sometimes life just plain hurts.

I think the hardest thing about feeling so deeply is that, at times, my emotions can completely hijack my life and carry it off  to some umpteenth level of  hell. What gives? There ends up being much more than sheer emotion going on.

A few years ago I watched a science video about flying airplanes. This video went into detail about the difference between flying by sight and flying by instrument. When the fellow started talking I assumed that he was going to say that flying by sight is crucial to master because instruments in airplanes can be wrong and you need to learn how to fly without them. That's not the case at all.

Some of y'all remember back in 1999 when John F. Kennedy, Jr., along with his wife and sister-in-law, disappeared. John was trained to fly by sight. It turns out that you learn how to do that first, before you learn how to fly by instrument. People who fly by sight are to fly only in daylight and only in clear weather conditions. Why? Because without the visual cues, your body loses its ability to determine where it is in space. It is called spatial disorientation. 

A few months ago I read the book The Day John Died by Christopher Andersen. In it he recreates the last few minutes of John's life as he flew his Piper Saratoga toward Martha's Vineyard. He describes what likely happened. The vertigo. The disorientation. The plummeting plane. He describes how one instinctual move can result in what is called the "graveyard spiral," sending the plane toward the surface of the ocean at ninety-nine feet per second. 

Interestingly, this is what Andersen says:

Even as the Piper Saratoga dropped from the sky, there remained one slender hope. John might yet regain control of the plane. It had been done before. "If you believe what your instruments are telling you and focus on getting your wings level, " [veteran military pilot Edward] Francis said, "you can recover—even at the last minute. But the degree of concentration it requires is total." 

Well, the wreckage and the bodies of all on board were found a few days later. JFK Jr.'s confidence in his own ability to fly in poor conditions and his ignorance of the instruments proved disastrous. 

I don't know if you are seeing the parallel yet, but I sure do. I seem to spend my life flying by sight. I spend my life believing all the input going on around me. Sometimes that input is coming from the world at large, sometimes from my own insecurities or desires, and sometimes that input is coming from the pit of hell itself. I get disoriented. I think up is down and down is up. I jerk my plane right and left to no avail. And sometimes I throw myself into the dreaded graveyard spiral. All because I am failing to fly by the instruments.

The conditions out there are bad. I can't do it on my own. These people who say "Just believe in yourself" . . . I just want to say that is bull****. I would use the actual word but some would be offended. But I call 'em like I see 'em. No. I will NOT believe in myself. I have no ability within myself to know when up is down and down is up. I can only trust in what doesn't fail. Ever.

God has given me an instrument panel. His very word. Truth. So when my emotions have run off with me, I have to stop and ask if I have taken my eyes off the dashboard. Sometimes I haven't and my heart just hurts because a lot of time life just hurts. But other times I have gotten myself into deep trouble because I am flying by the seat of my pants and trusting more in my own assessment of the situation than in what the instruments are saying.

Sure, there is pain in life. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of sadness and mourning and grief and anger. These are not wrong, in and of themselves. But there are also plenty of places where we are told NOT to fret, NOT to fear, NOT to worry. When I find myself doing just that, I'm not trusting the instrument panel.

So the next time my emotions run off without me and send me into a graveyard spiral toward the pit of despair, I need to stop and focus on the instrument panel. What is God saying about this? Where is the gospel in this situation? What is true? Maybe that is what Paul means when he tells us to "think on these things" (Phil.4:8).

We cannot trust our own perceptions and what seems right. That will prove disastrous every single time. Praise God he has provided a better way.

1 comment:

  1. Infj here. I understand what you mean by being emotional. Thanks for the reminder! I really enjoy your writing. :)