There is a popular song that plays occasionally on the Christian radio station called “The Motions.” I had to look up the lyrics because I could only remember the chorus (even after I looked them up, they made little sense to me). This is how the chorus goes:
I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything
Instead of going through the motions?
Not to slaughter anyone’s sacred cow (or song), but this song has got it backward.
In the first place, our actions should not be driven by fickle passion, which, like the waves of the ocean, rises and falls unevenly. Secondly, while I understand the songwriter’s desire to spur people on to greater depths of love, the object should be commitment rather than feelings. (In this context, “feelings” refers to palpable surges of emotion.)
Individuals motivated solely by their “fiery passion” are going to be lost when that fire dies down —and it will). When it comes to our faith, we will not always feel excited, joyous, enthusiastic, passionate etcetera. There will be periods in which we “feel” little to nothing. Our love for God must be so much more than an emotion. It ought to be a rock-solid, immovable, unshakeable commitment that drives us in spite of how blah we feel at the moment.
Here are 3 reasons why it’s ok to “go through the motions” during an emotional flat-line:
Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.
~ Proverbs 16.3, NKJV
The common mantra of “follow your heart” is bad advice wrapped in pretty paper. The only time you should follow your heart is if your heart is following God. No wonder we have so many people with no sense of purpose, extreme apathy, and a high rate of divorce—they are following the whims of their directionless heart. Emotions are fickle—ask anybody with depression!
When we commit our lives to the Lord, we will have periods in which we are simply going through the motions because we are holding on in spite of our weak nature.
In my own life, there have been periods in which I had zero desire to be at worship, bible class, or any church-related event, and I had any number of reasons excuses: People had wounded me; the preaching was unsubstantial; I was exhausted from stress or taking care of the kids. In most cases, the root problem stemmed from haphazard prayer or study during the week, causing my fire to be quite dim. Those were low points in my life—points in which I was a little too focused on self and not enough on Christ. In spite of these times, my sense of duty to Christ outweighed my feelings. There were a handful of missed services during those periods, but my conscience urged me to do better. I would continue attending even when “I didn’t feel like it.”
Parents—If you have children of any age, they are covertly watching your every move. Every decision is questioned, even if it is not voiced. If you have a sporadic commitment, can you honestly expect them to be committed when they have not witnessed that behavior in you? Be consistent in action even if emotions are low in order to provide a good example.
Some might say this is hypocritical behavior. Hypocrisy comes from the Greek concept of acting like something you are not. Stage actors were actually called hypocrites. My response is this—why are you acting? Is it so people will respect you or is it because you want to stay committed to Christ? If your goal is outward approval, then you truly are a hypocrite in the negative sense. If your goals is to hang on to your commitment to Christ, then you are not.
With all that being said, are we supposed to remain passionless robots??
This is not a state in which we ought to remain. Go through the motions and ask God to stoke the fire in your heart as you serve Him. Get into the word and dig deep, ask a strong Christian whom you trust for help and prayers on your behalf. This brings me to my next point….
Action precedes emotion
“When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
If you’ve been married you’ll understand this next point intimately. Before you are married, romance and emotions run high. The day of the wedding comes and both hearts are aflame with a roaring fire of joy and love. Over time, those fiery emotions begin to wane as the difficulties of life and the pull of responsibilities set in. The question is, what is left when the fire cools? What was there to begin with? Are there smoldering hot coals and blue flames that continue to fuel the relationship, or is it dead out? There comes a point at which each spouse must decide how deeply their love runs.
Committed love continues to show affection regardless of fickle “feeling.” A convenient love hits the road when the “feeling” isn’t there. And, as the committed love continues to demonstrate affection, those feelings come unexpectedly and more beautifully than they did in the beginning.
It is the same in our commitment to Christ. When we are baptized into Christ, we are on fire, ready to change the world. When the testing and trial set in (and they will come) it’s up to us to keep those coals warm by continuing to serve no matter what we “feel.” Do what you know is right through the word, and the fire will reignite in your heart with even greater warmth and beauty than in the beginning. Not only that, but there will be a solid bed of coals that will keep the fire burning until the end.
We need to stay the course to the end
Serving the Lord has its highs and lows. I think often of Elijah, sitting in a lonely cave crying out to the Lord, “I alone am left!!” He was despondent, wishing for it all to be over. What was the point of going on? Nobody was listening to him—or so it seemed. God strengthened Elijah and told him that there were 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to the false idol, Baal. Did Elijah stay in the cave anyway? No, he got up, went out, and stayed the course until the end of his life.
I think of Noah, who spent 100 years building the ark and warning everyone he could of the coming destruction. 100 years! How many people got in the boat out of the entire population? Eight. 100 years and only eight people. Most of us don’t even live that long. I’m sure there were days he wondered if the flood was actually coming or if it was even worth speaking to one more person. Should he keep hammering on this ark or just take some time off? We know he kept at it. It is not revealed to us what he was feeling, we can only speculate. Regardless of what he may or may not have felt, he did what God commanded. That, my friends, is what we all should do. Even if it means that despised act of “going through the motions.” Do what God commands because you know you should.
Stay the course.
Finish the race.
We should go through the motions during emotional flat-lines because we love Jesus and we don’t want to lose our relationship with Him. Go through the motions and the emotions will come—far more lovely and lasting than any that preceded them.
This post originally appeared on Elihu’s Corner and was republished with permission.
Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com