Insights with Emily: Thinking vs. experiencing

Emily Salerno-Oswald
Scriptural Columnist

Life is confusing. I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who likes to try to figure things out. Give me a problem, and I can probably give you at least five potential solutions in a minute, flat. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. Solving problems in a black and white — if a=b and b=c, then a=c — format is so satisfying.

But, sadly, we cannot always logic our way out of the gray areas that we encounter in life, especially in matters of the heart. Now, don’t stop reading yet. I’m not going to ride this Hallmark movie train all the way to Christmastown, USA. But I am going to talk about relationships.

But first, I’m going to talk about music.

One of the things that makes the most sense to me is music. I listen to music, and everything else fades into the background. Music has symmetry, and it’s mathematical; yet sometimes the most beautiful aspects of music are its irregularities, its syncopation, its unpredictability and surprise. But, anyway, music makes sense.

One of the reasons why music makes so much sense to me is that it takes me out of my head, and it literally speaks straight to my soul. It stirs emotions and sensations in me and allows me to encounter the divine in a way like no other thing does.

My guard is down when I am enveloped in music. I feel free. I feel joyful. The way that I am myself in encountering music is the way that God intends me to be all the time. Music connects my head and my heart. Music, for me, is pure experience.

The opposite of experience is analysis. In excess, analysis gets in the way of authentic relationship. Whenever I come before God with an intensity of feeling like it has to go a certain way or else I must be failing, there is no room within me to encounter the Holy Spirit. What should be clear and open and calm is muddied and cloudy and inwardly critical instead of upwardly focused and receptive.

I’ve noticed that the same phenomenon occurs for me with human relationships. You can’t think through love. I’m not saying I’ve found my soul mate or anything, but I’m saying that when and if I ever do, I doubt it will be by creating a linear graph of the potential possibilities and then settling on the mean value and calling him “my guy.” Don’t quote me on this math metaphor — there’s a reason I’m an English major.

I’m not claiming to have all the answers. In fact, I’m saying I have literally no answers. But I think step one when approaching the unsolvable in life (besides, of course, entrusting it to God) would be tapping into the raw experience of it. Letting yourself get caught up in the here and now and how it feels and what it looks like and how your soul responds to it.

This is so hard to do if you are a thinker, like me. Nonetheless, I think it’s necessary.

If you think back to some of the best moments in your life, were you thinking about what was happening to you in those moments? Probably not. Those moments were the best because you experienced them fully. The moments when we lose ourselves are often the moments when we feel most alive.

Chase more of that this week, if you can. Because the more you experience life instead of trying to observe it, chart it, plan it or categorize it, the closer you will get to where you are meant to go.

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Songs that inspired this article:
“Keep Me In the Moment” by Jeremy Camp.
“Head Up High” by FITZ, Fitz and the Tantrums.

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