Willard: That’s the time to bring these together and welcome those thoughts. I know that when I’ve done that, very often, the combination of the word of God, prayer meditation, with those thoughts, rather than pushing them away [changes them]. They become different. For example, I am able to become compassionate toward the person that I was justifiably angry at....


Spiritual Formation and Our Feelings


Willard: This helps a lot and brings together that other aspect of the mind, which is emotion. Because when we bring the word of God as a living substance into us, it really does change us. My experience has been at the level of feeling. I still remember teaching a woman once; as we drove along, I was going over Romans 8 and suddenly it dawned on me what this all meant. It was like the car was filled by glory. It was so profound. I really was never the same after that in thinking about the love of God and being loved by God. I trace that back to the content of the thoughts. That’s what made the connection. When we are dealing with cases like you described [when previously discussing the role of thoughts], that emotions, loaded with a bunch of images, and how foolish he made me look, and so on, I have to bring that over into the context of the content of the Word of God. And see myself to see myself differently.


Crabb: That word “content” you used, let me just put in a little first grade sentence. We’re not going to be able to chew on Scripture unless we have some familiarity with it. I think it’s important in our small groups and so forth to just learn the word of God. I knew about Jephtha because as a kid, I was dragged to more churches than I ever wanted to go to, and there’s just a value in knowing the Scripture. Even if it feels dry for the time, it’s like a first-year medical student learning the bones and the chemicals. I want to just make a plug for Bible knowledge. This emotional thing–how thoughts and emotions are interrelated–again, it was very recently I was realizing that my attitude toward my wife had to do with my feeling somewhat justified in distancing myself from her. And feeling that if she didn’t respond a little differently I was really handling myself quite honorably. But then I noticed the pain in her face and knew this wasn’t right. I pondered the obvious Ephesians 5 passage about loving her the way He loves me. And I realized if He loves me the way [in the same way] I’m treating my wife, I’m in bad shape. And there was a level of brokenness that changed my feelings toward my wife. I was broken. I was repentant. I went and told her that. I felt warm toward her. I went and told her that, and that one of the biggest privileges I had in life was to have her as a wife. I felt warm; it was wonderful. I’d like to think it will sustain itself for the rest of my life.


Willard: Well, one of the good things about these emotions is that they spread over the life, don’t they?


Crabb: They do.


Willard: When I’m in union with my wife at this deep level, I’m in union with the world. And, conversely, I remember how not being in union with my wife would affect my children.