We just got back from a fantastic family vacation and everything was wonderful…except that something was bothering me the whole time…this thing was niggling in my head and I just couldn’t shake it. The company that Stan works for just bought another company which sounds great…until you realize that the result is basically two of every department…no company needs that so…upcoming layoffs…loads of them…and it turns out that they are announcing them the week we are to be away without wifi or cell service or contact with the world back here in the US. Even IF we are somehow safe, it means that lots of really good people will lose their jobs…people we care about…people with families and lives and hurts and responsibilities…people who need their jobs.
Well, as it turns out…Stan was not spared. After 15 years with the company, he is being let go. And this is still really fresh, new information…so it hurts…a lot. I am not and will not be saying anything disparaging about the company…they are about business and will do what they need to do to continue on. Anyway, I am writing because I need to process. My family needs me to be able to function in whatever way necessary…whether that be as an encourager, or finding a paying job for myself (which is difficult for me…I tend to want to do things for free), or just being anchored to the Holy Spirit and providing stability in what is sure to be a tumultuous time…and to do any of that, I’ve got to do something with all of these pesky feelings! Oy! The feelings! Over the last two days, I have found that I play a different role with each one:
Tigger: encouraging Stan that this is the best thing because it is an opportunity to find out what he wants to be when he grows up (Ha! As if either of us will ever grow up!) “This is actually the best thing ever!!!! We are starting a grand new adventure!!!!”
Beast (Beauty and the Beast): hurt (with a strong tendency toward protective) on his behalf that anyone could possibly not clearly see the priceless jewel that he is. “Hurt the ones I love and I. Will. End. You!” *Followed by an impressive growl as a show of fierceness right before licking my wounds.*
The Hulk: angry that the company would make a decision that would injure so many of their really good employees. “Hulk SMASH!!!!”
Marlin (Finding Nemo): anxiety that comes from a life-long anxiety disorder but also from not knowing what the future holds (and knowing amazing friends who have been through this and have had to move away in order to gain employment.) “What is the quickest and safest solution to the impending discomfort???”
As I experience any of the “negative emotions” I find that I am chiding myself…seeing it as a lack of faith. (I grew up as a preacher’s kid. And not just any preacher…conservative southern baptist…that means that my knee-jerk response is that emotions are not trusted. Logic…good. Feelings…bad.) I mean, my head knows that God has us and cares for us and is for us…so what is there to fear? But my heart is still broken and I want to yell out that “There is a crap-ton to fear because this is effin’ scary and all the rainbows and Amy Grant songs in the world still won’t buy milk!” And then I respond to myself with “Really? Milk? You are a landlord and own (at least partially own) 4 houses! Quit your bitchin’!” (Have I mentioned that I am a lunatic that not only talks to myself but also has entire arguments with myself! I just hope I can keep it above the belt so that I none of the assorted sides of me gets fed up and goes rogue.)
And, of course, shame has to rear its ugly head: I have to confess that part of me momentarily regretted donating a large sum of money to a charity about 10 days ago. A charity that helps rescue trafficked individuals! What the hell is wrong with me that I would think for even a moment that I need that money more than they do?! *shakes head in disgust*
And then, this morning, it hit me. The feelings aren’t the problem. It is that I am trying to make them obey me that is the problem…that I am trying to suppress them…that I am trying to lie and say that the feelings don’t exist. Having feelings is actually part of what makes me an image-bearer of the almighty:
“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Luke 22:41-44 NKJV
Jesus was in so much emotional agony that he was literally sweating blood! I would say that qualifies as pretty strong feelings. And then there was the righteous anger accompanying overturning tables in the temple…and the grief when he wept over Lazarus’ death (not because he would miss him…he knew he would resurrect him…it was because sin and death were not things that we, his image-bearers were meant to know and it grieved him for us to encounter it)…and anger again when he saw that the religious leaders were only concerned with catching him break their rules by healing on the Sabbath. And all of these pesky feelings that Jesus felt…were all based in, and evidence of, his deep deep love for people…his investment.
So that has me thinking…when I try to lie about my feelings, suppress them, or “fake it ’till you make it”…I’m disconnecting my feelings from my mental processes. This is ultimately untruth…lies…and that isn’t what my God is about…it’s insincere and artificial…pretending to live instead of actually living. That said, I’m going to try my hand at embracing all of the feelings…good, bad, or ugly…because if I do not, I will be less able to be a truthful reflection of God.
So, if you’ve made it this far through my rambling, I would like to ask you how you are doing with this? Are you stunting your ability to fully live your life by suppressing your emotions? Do you feel that there are timelines that must be met when you are feeling something? (Like hurrying grief, for example?) When people are feeling something powerful, does it make you uncomfortable? Do you avoid uncomfortable emotions? If you do, what do you think the repercussions are on your relationships?
My prayer today is that we would live more completely. That we would take these lives that we have been given and live so fully that we would wear them completely out…leaving nothing behind unlived or unloved! I am praying that we would be true image-bearers and not edited versions of what we think we should be. And, I am praying that we would love…love so deeply that we are willing to feel. Much love friends,