Something I struggle deeply with is allowing myself to slow down to feel things that are uncomfortable. I have become increasingly aware of this. Through marriage, I have noticed my empathy is extremely lacking. My poor sweet husband. But really, I am not even kidding, and I wish I were. There are times when he is struggling with something or has a bad day and I respond with a solution or some form of “suck it up buttercup.” That is obviously not fair or kind to his heart. I treat myself the same way, though. My internal dialogue is vicious. When I feel these feelings well up inside of me… you know the ones… like anger, hurt, sadness, embarrassment, frustration… I want to arm wrestle them to the ground and make them yell out “uncle!” because I want those emotions to be in pain, not me! Then denial sets in. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. What is wallowing? What is hurt? What is humiliation? “I will have victory over you!” I yell inside my soul, as I ravage the rest of my insides like an emotional and spiritual Tasmanian devil.
Wow, I sound unkind (to put it lightly). But this is honestly how I handle myself sometimes. When I am not making my emotions cry “uncle,” I am really good at covering them up with accomplishments, running away to do something else that is far less stressful, or deflecting. Gross, I know. None of these are helpful tactics. My “keep it together” skills or “at least look like you can keep it together” skills are not helpful when trying to relinquish my soul to God for formation into Christ likeness. These things I must let go of if I am to receive what God has for me. I must lay down my expectations, my “should’s”, my “ought to’s”, my desire to control, so that I might receive what God actually wants me to have. Why don’t I trust it? Why do I want to be in charge of it so badly? It obviously hasn’t served me thus far. In fact, I have learned time and time again that when I am in charge of something, it usually is pretty terrible and unfulfilling. Then why am I addicted to this even though that is the outcome? I would suggest it is pride. But maybe not the kind of pride you’re thinking of. I am talking about the kind of pride that believes that God couldn’t possibly be that good. The kind of pride that refuses the truth that God is for me. The kind of pride that rejects God’s goodness for fear of disappointment. But God (all good sermons have a “But God”) really is that good. Why don’t I want to believe it? Why do I refuse this truth? Because of disappointment. Because my belief in God’s goodness comes with expectations of how that goodness should manifest itself. I don’t get to choose that. I don’t get to choose how God is good. I just get to believe and proclaim the fact that he is good.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds awfully vulnerable to me. And to be honest, I don’t really like it. *insert pouty toddler face here* But, God never asked me what I “liked” or felt comfortable with. God asked me for everything, my whole self, my heart, my soul, my spirit, my body, all of it. And because of that, I don’t get to choose or dictate how I think He should work, what He should do. I, instead, get join the bigger story of the history of God and give a yes and amen to it. I get to participate in the big picture, God’s redemption story of the world. AND….. the bigger picture for me is that I learn to relinquish myself, and surrender to the work of God that is possible in times of rejection, hurt, anger, frustration and disappointment. He wastes nothing, not even the really terrible feelings.