via dolorosa

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AND HE SAID TO THEM ALL, IF ANY MAN WILL COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY, AND FOLLOW ME. -LUKE 9:23

In the light of the hyper grace and prosperity gospel, many people are deceived by the misconstrued  theology that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for believers. Happiness and self-gratification becomes the bait to attract many into idolatry, in the name of Christianity. It is clear in the Bible though, that we are called to follow Jesus. Jesus’ purpose in walking on earth is to be the first-born among many brethren (believers) (Rom 8:29d) in God’s divine plan of redemption. The redemption was fulfilled with Jesus dying on the Cross and His Resurrection from the dead.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the 4 accounts in the Gospels give us a very clear picture on the struggle Jesus faced and the agony He was in. “Then He said to the disciples ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death…'” (Matt 26:38a). Twice He prayed that the cup may pass from Him yet each time, He submitted to the Father’s will. An angel was sent by God to strengthen Him that He continued to pray more fervently even in His great grief (Luke 22:43-44). What gave Jesus the strength to go on? It is the joy of the Redeeming Glory of God that is yet to come. Jesus carried the Cross till the end and fulfilled the promise as the first-born among us who dare believes. In John 16: 16-22, we catch a glimpse of what that joy is about.

In the same manner, we are called to deny ourselves (idolatry or selfish desires), take up our cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). Our individual crosses may differ but what has increasingly become clearer for me is the cross of my chronic illness. Interesting enough, I get my fair share of well-meaning “Peters” who rebukes me as the idea of the cup of suffering does not align with their personal theology (of prosperity gospel?) (see Matt 6:22). The cup of suffering/sorrow is contraindicative to the well received prosperity gospel that many believers now subscribe to. However, we see that it is being affirmed in the Bible repeatedly through the words and lives of Jesus (John 16:33), Paul (Rom 8:18) and Job. Maybe, and most assuredly, this is what it is about to be a Christian. A good book to read on this is Henri Nouwen’s “Can You Drink the Cup?”, where the Nouwen puts the cup of sorrow and cup of joy side by side.

As the term sorrow or suffering suggests, and demonstrated by Jesus Himself, the cup and the journey of the cross, via dolorosa (latin for “Way of Grief”) is not an easy one to swallow. It is full of agony and grief – and we are called to follow after Jesus! Just as I was returning from a medical review with the doctor yesterday which confirmed an on-going flare and officially puts me in a fight mode together with the medical team, the reminder of this being my cross surfaces. The via dolorosa  was what I saw, with the Resurrected Jesus waiting ahead of me at the top of the Golgotha hill. I am glad I am not alone walking through the via dolorosa. Together with me along the way are many more like-minded people who has chosen to pick up their cross and walk up the via dolorosa, following the footsteps of Jesus. There was a joy in knowing where it leads – to the Resurrected Jesus, the only reason why my life on earth is worth living. As I reflect more on this, I understand a little bit more about what Jesus meant when He said “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden in light.” (Matt 11:29-30)

My heart was strengthen with Joy.

emotions and self

In an attempt to make sense of human emotions, psychologist Michel Cabanac proposed the definition that “[E]motion is any mental experience with high intensity and high hedonic content (pleasure/displeasure).” In an everyday human term, emotion is more commonly defined with reference to a list: joy, fear, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise, etc. Emotions are complex and often express itself through our physical and psychological behaviour. What the human eye is able to see is the outcome of that expression, in which the bearer allowed themselves to express. What is often not seen nor understood about a certain emotion is the source contributing to the intensity of the experience. Our robotic society has judged emotions as stumbling block to efficiency. Phrases like “Don’t let your emotions affect you!” and “Leave your emotions at home” have become a baseline in which we exist. Non-display of intense emotions qualify us as functional human being who are stable and efficient where as those displaying emotions (especially of displeasure) are deemed as weaklings.

Is emotion all that bad a thing? What if having emotions is part of what it means to be living?  There is definitely more to emotions than that! Emotions bring human experiences alive and real. I am not going to go into that but what I have increasingly become more aware is the role of emotions in telling us who we are. Every human is capable of feelings, or being aroused. However, what differentiate us from another is the intensity of our sensory arousal and the way we respond through our behaviours. For example,  the same event or incident could warrant completely different responses.

Firstly, two individuals could be equally aroused by an event or incident. However, the manner in which the arousal translates to physical and psychological behaviour between the two could be entirely different. For example, at the sight of a very messy living space, a homemaker who loves to see that her home in order could respond by (1) scream at her children for making a mess and blame the husband for not controlling the children or (2) join the play with the children, and together with the children, clean up the mess after. How we respond to our emotions tell us much about who we are inside. It is probably a good idea to pause and take a deep breathe before we react on impulse at every intense arousal, be it of joy, sadness or anger. You do not want to jump for joy at the edge of a cliff (celebrating you’ve made it!) just to fall to your death. Wisdom and priority has much to do in how we respond to our emotions. Emotions provide us a window to reflect and refine ourselves.

Secondly, the same incident and event may result in one an intense arousal but does nothing to another. Our intense arousal or non-arousal reveals much about who we are and what we care about. Our subconscious respond to external stimuli and expresses itself in the form of emotions. If we are not bothered, we probably will not feel much at all. We only respond to matters that mean something to us. So the next time somebody is angry at you, know that they care and is bothered by you.  Haha… Similarly, when you feel something very strongly (pleasure/displeasure), it is a sign that it means a lot to you.

While every human is wired differently and uniquely, we are motivated and irritated by different things. There is much talk about finding our passion and pursuing our dreams but most are left bewildered unable to pin-point the area of our passion. I believe our emotions can shed some light here. Let me elaborate.  Ask yourself the question. “What irks you?”, and then “Why?”. Ask another person the same two questions and chances are, the answers to the questions are different. The answers probably explains why the person spend most of his/her time being preoccupied with the things he/she does. For a music producer, bad music probably irks them and for a nurse, a person in pain. Because of the displeasure the music producer feels at the thought of hearing bad music for example, the music producer has taken upon himself the responsibility to produce good music. For the nurse, the displeasure she feels propels her to want to help individuals in pain. Does a person’s occupation defines who they are? No. On the contrary, our natural response to the external stimuli propels us to choose the work in which we will spend our time and energy doing – being big or small. More often than not, we will find ourselves able to do them quite well, probably because subconsciously, we are more serious in doing those things and are more willing to learn. So the next time you find something that irks you, ask yourself “why” and it may be worth while to ask a third question: “How much time is spent “fixing” that?”