Children make faces. For me, those faces were usually the comic relief of kids entertaining each other. Fun and games. Just as often , however, they were strategically devised and aimed, facial contortions that expressed deep emotions. If these feelings made us too big for our britches we'd blurt out some response to the people who offended us. If not, we'd stick out our tongue or throw a raspberry at them, or become the ugly we were feeling. Mama Holmes would warn us, "Your face is goint to freeze like that."
Emotions? Well, yes, Sigmund, we all have them. The people in the mind business define them in a variety of ways, some in psycho-babble code language, others in clear layman's language. Basically, emotions are our state of mind and instinctive responses to life. Our culture is totaly taken with them to the point that we must annotate our communications with "emoticons", icons that define what's happening in us at the moment. Our language is often embellished with colorful emotional references---drama queen, human dynamo, fireball, dud, lightening rod, feelings on the sleeve, sparkplug, a bundle of tears, PMS, emotional wreck---and of course, a good many terms I can't reference here because they would violate my sense of good taste. We are an emotion driven world.
Mama Holmes teased us about our face freezing because she knew that emotional outbursts and expressions were bad business. It's true regardless of the venue---the home, the office, the classroom, doctors office, library, department or grocery store, or church. It's one of the most delicate balancing acts effective leaders must master, the weighing of passion, ambition, drive, vision, humor, and even sadness against the emotional extremes that throw the organization off course. Great leaders can super-charge their people with enthusiasm, can coach them through the highs and lows of life, can inspire them to greater achievement, and bring them to next levels of performance without pushing them beyond their emotional bursting points. So, when Mama Holmes warned us about our faces freezing in a Frankenstein look, she was comically steering us away from being controlled by our emotions. That's leadership.
When our feelings erupt the hot lava often burns everyone around us. You can watch a group of people react to the positive or negative influence of someone who's chain has been pulled. It happens in football stadiums every time the team plays, political gatherings when somone is warming the crowd, a classroom that is challenged by a creative teacher, or a sales them that is jacked up at the weekly meeting. Dramatic people can alter the dynamic of people no matter the cause. At the same time, when anyone overplays their instincts or motives the emotional energy, with so much potential to ignite, can explode and shift the mood in a totally undesired direction.
At church too. The other day I was talking to a pastor about the antics of a monthly church business meeting. He said something like, "There's no drama like church drama". While I agreed to some degree, I usually affirm that it isn't church drama so much, although it does seem out of place in Christ's body. Really, it's human drama. And, there's plenty of that. The deal is, however, when it shows up at church, it's a signal that something is wrong. It means that somebody may not actually be a believer, or that the drama kings or queens are spiritual infants. When we become new creations, he becomes Master of us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Yes, there are people with genuine, diagnoed mental distress of psychological disorder. Then again, there are many people for whom Jesus Christ is not Lord of their emotions.
Biblical instruction and command touch the area of emotional well-being. Count the number of times Scripture addresses fear, happiness, anger, envy, jealousy, depression, sadness, and all the other emotional focus points. Spiritual virture overlays them---joy, gladness, rejoicing, sorrow, love, and so many others. So, our grandmother was simply reinforceing our need to put some limits around our emotions so we could live in relationship with other people.
It's a great lesson in a world that is unsettled and emotionally dysfunctional. There is another twist. "Your face is going to freeze like that" was a the reminder that we don't want to be remembered that way, the picture of an unstable person reacting to the circumstances around us in a childish, spirituallly immature way. There's a momentary snapshot image of this person with a childish facial expression. It's not a picture we want in the family album.
Here's some good stuff to deal with the tantrums and pouting and ugly grimaces of an emotional infant. "But, the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle- ness, self control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:23).
I don't know about you, but I'd as soon my mind and face would freeze on them.