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Week 1 - Love, Joy, Peace

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace - Galatians 5:22

There are some emotions that I treasure. Peace in particular is one that I strive to experience on a daily basis. Admittedly, in this chaotic world feeling peaceful is something that I struggle to experience regularly, but when I do - when I experience the tranquility that comes with peace then I not only feel one with the world, but I feel close to God.

Galatians 5:22 - 23 talk about nine different feelings, behaviours or values that we should strive to experience and act in line with. These values can be developed by connecting closely to God and are brought to fruition through the Holy Spirit, but like my ability to feel peace, are often blocked by the world and our competing demands. Over the next four weeks we are going to look at these nine fruit and explore common blocks preventing us from acting in line with them.

The first three fruit - love, joy and peach - are directed inwardly, representing internal states that we should experience. In psychology, we often talk about a variety of different forms of love (for example affectionate love, enduring love, romantic love, obsessive love, self and selfless love) each which play a different role in our life. But we also acknowledge the opposite side to love; which is pain and how it is in our nature to avoid this feeling. Similarly, while we can seek joy or happiness, we may try to avoid sadness which is the opposite side of the coin. And this logic also applies to peace and its opposite - chaos.

The unfortunate secret about these emotions is that you cannot have one without the other. For example, you cannot love someone without risking pain, nor can you feel joy without risking sadness. So when you decide that you don't (understandably) want to experience these negative emotions, you are also losing out on the positive ones - and therefore actually missing out on experiencing some amazing things that God wants to give you.

So, how do we learn to accept and allow those negative feelings in? We start by deciding that we are no longer going to avoid feeling those emotions. And then we decide that we will be fully present with our emotions - notice the sensations that you are experiencing, rather than distracting, avoiding or numbing ourselves out.

Secondly, we start thinking about these emotions in a different way - instead of calling them "negative" or "bad" we call them unpleasant; making them less overwhelming and scary. We take the judgement away from these emotions and instead acknowledge that they are a part of our life.

Thirdly, we realise that we can move through our emotion. We know that when we feel an emotion it triggers a physiological or bodily reaction which is what we want to get away from. But just like any other physiological sensation, we know that it will eventually dissipate as we give it time - just like any other bodily sensation. We just need to ride the wave. The Psalms are full of prayers from people who are riding this wave of emotion, they are very helpful in showing us how to talk to God no matter what our emotional state.

So, this week I encourage you to focus on feeling your emotions - both those pleasant and unpleasant. Then talk to God about them.

-Written by Ashleigh Crosilla.


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