Emotions 14: Maria's Wisdom
As an example of emotional landscaping, let’s imagine the life of a girl named Maria. Maria is born in a Christian home to parents who love each other. She has two younger siblings. We can picture her as a sheep (as in Psalm 23) being led by the shepherd, Jesus, through green pastures and beside still waters. Her emotional landscape is relatively stable and beautiful during her childhood.
Then, Maria attends a public high school where she is taught evolution from an atheistic perspective. She begins dating and partying and has to deal with cliques and academic pressure. She begins to question God’s presence and goodness in the face of all the suffering in the world. Experimenting with drugs and going through boyfriends and breakups leaves scars on her heart.
As she starts building flimsy shelters of lies in her mind to hide from the pain, Maria realizes that she needs a solid foundation for her life. She starts attending youth group at church and begins praying and reading the Bible so that she can connect with God. After a friend commits suicide, Maria realizes that she’s not sure where she will go when she dies. She schedules an appointment with her youth pastor.
The youth pastor shows Maria from the Bible how she can know that she will go to heaven after her death. She trusts Jesus’ death and resurrection as full payment for her salvation from hell. Her relationship with God is now secure, and she feels safe knowing that heaven will be better than anything else that she can imagine.
Maria sets to work making the most out of the time that she has left on earth. She starts a prayer journal to help her find out what God wants her to do with her life. She commits to stop dating and save her heart for her future husband. She makes friends with other Christians who don’t drink. When she’s tempted to go out with guys, she prays for the right husband and calls her best friend for encouragement to wait for him.
After giving God her heart, Maria realizes that Jesus has given her his heart. As she talks to him and reads his words, she understands that he cares about every little thing in her life. It’s exhilarating. Each morning, Maria looks forward to seeing more pieces of God’s perspective. She feels deeply loved and connected.
As she gets to know her Father God, she realizes that she can trust her parents even though they make a lot of mistakes. She commits to obeying them and stops listening to the music that they complain about. She finds beautiful Christian music online and starts sharing it with her friends. She is able to influence some of them to be honest with their parents as well. Maria feels like her faith is a fire lighting up her life and she can’t get enough time with Jesus.
Ultimately, Maria seeks out training for missions. She goes through highs and lows in her life, but always knows deep inside that everything happens for a good purpose. God never lets her down. She is able to build amazing experiences with him that she knows will be her treasures in heaven.
When she reaches her old age, Maria is satisfied with how she partnered with God to accomplish his work on the earth. Sure, there are things she would do differently if she could live her life all over again. Even so, she can see how even these wrong choices worked out for God’s best for her in the end.
Maria’s a fictional character that represents many real people. Let’s look at how she used the four levels of The Intimacy Strategy when she hit emotional barriers:
1. She cleared brush and branches by praying and calling her friend when she was tempted to believe the lie that she needed to date guys in order to feel loved.
2. She removed fruitless trees by praying and reading her Bible. This cut through the lies about God that invaded her mind from her atheistic school culture.
3. She took down strongholds by asking her youth pastor to help her stop questioning God’s goodness. She crushed dishonor of her parents by choosing to obey them. With her parents’ help, she ended the stronghold of poor music choices.
4. The pressure point of her friend’s suicide opened up emotional vulnerability in Maria. By circling around her insecurity instead of ignoring it or feeding it, she found a core lie inside that said she was already safe from hell. She let God speak the truth, that she had to choose to trust his death and resurrection to save her. When she did, the walls of insecurity came down and she felt safe and confident.
Notice that every time Maria crushed an emotional obstacle, she built a better structure in its place on her landscape. Here’s how:
In order to replace negative thoughts about God from her school environment, she surrounded herself with her youth group’s thoughts about faith in God.
To replace destructive dating relationships, she spoke to God and listened to him through the Bible. She turned to her girl friends for support in keeping her mind pure.
To replace a bad clique that used alcohol, she made friends with Christians.
To replace bad music, she found worship music to share with her new friends.
No matter what stage of life you’re at, your emotions are there to alert you of wrong pathways in your life. Maria realized that some of the things she was doing were causing her pain even though they seemed normal. She decided to find better options for herself instead of waiting for her life to change on its own. We hope this handbook inspires you to be proactive as well.
Your positive and negative emotions are your personal feedback system. Listen to them. The heart is the seat of the soul, which can’t be separated from the mind and the will. In the next chapter, we will discover how to structure your thoughts so that your emotions run smoothly through your mind to make a healthy impact on your choices.
As a Side Note: Protect your heart and marriage from competition (even if it's a marriage that's still in the future). Refuse to be alone with adults who are not of your gender. Use The Security Strategy when you’re tempted to think romantically about people you know you won't marry. Call a strong Christian friend when this gets hard. Stay honest.
If you're single, consider taking a vow of purity and wearing a purity ring. Click here to learn about purity rings and click here to learn how to wear one. (Even if you're not currently sexually pure, you can still choose to take this vow.) Click here for our favorite book about getting ready for marriage.
If you're married, consider the vow of faithful purity that you've already taken. Get help to get back on track with sexual purity if you need to.
Whether you are married or single, it's very important to have at least one friend of your own gender (or a parent or grandparent) who you can talk to when staying pure gets hard. If you don't have this kind of friend, talk to a pastor or pastor's wife whom you can trust. The greatest enemies of purity are inappropriate thoughts and ashamed secrecy. Wisdom and honesty pave the pathway to healthy choices and conversations.