Archive for October, 2016

It is not unusual for me to experience sudden emotion at unexpected moments. The emotion can be prompted by thoughts as I lie in bed waiting for sleep to take me away; by something I see during my walks through the city, or on TV, or in printed media; or perhaps by a random thought that does not have a particular source nor is attributed to anything specific but just appears.

Yet all of these powerful emotional moments—not to be confused with either depression or euphoria—are often rooted in a response to a pleasant or satisfying memory or in a feeling of a desired state either being achieved or an intense yearing for that achievement. These breast-filling emotions that bring both pleasure and tears are good feelings.

What I am talking about is not something that is unhealthy or to be considered pathological. Rather it is an embracing of feelings that are real. They are my feelings; I own them. And I search for meaning within them that enriches my life.

I say they are not pathological because these emotional moments—and the time spent seeking understanding of, in, and throuh them—do not consume every aspect of my life. They are not an everpresent part of my waking hours. And though they do put me to sleep at times, I do not search for them as a quest for an aphrodisiac for peaceful sleep.

These moments arrive unexpectedly. I do not search for them; they come to me as oneimg_2204 did when I squatted on my haunches by the Mississippi River to better hear the wash from the barge that just passed lap against the cobblestone wharf. A memory from Vung Tao, Vietnam washed over me. I could almost hear the waves from the South China Sea crash against the rocks a stone’s throw away from the small tourist cabin as my son was conceived. My wife Barbara and I were in Vietnam developing a ministry to students and, on this ocassion, were gathered with other mission personnel on an annual retreat.

Emotion swept over me as I squated by the Mississippi river. While the gift of a son, and the joy and pride and admiration I have in him 45 years later, was bundled with the waves against the rocky shore. The ripples—from the passing tugboat and barges it pushed—making a sound on the cobblestones, though diminutive compared to the crashing waves at Vung Tau, became the catalyst for unexpected chest-filling emotion that brought tears. I stood up, walked on down the river toward Eads Bridge with a thankful heart for emotions.

I could describe other unexpected washes of emotion that give significance to a life lived. However, exciting ones are those unexpected emotional moments that suddenly envelope me when the life I have yet to live, a desired state yet to be achieved, becomes vividly experienced through thought or vision. That might raise an eyebrow; I’m 76 years old. But as I see it, that’s what it means to be alive. Being alive is having a desired state yet to be achieved. My freedom from plying a trade or responding in ministry fashion to needs around me affords time for reflection. But such reflection on past experience issues into future desires, which include filling time with meaning, discovering richness in diverse friendships, and finding companionship with one of similar heart and mind.

Unexpected though pleasant emotions give meaning to the past, bring beauty to the moment and expectancy for tomorrow.