So I asked a few friends, who are brainy, what’s it like to feel anyway?
The cerebral types grunted at me and didn’t have time for my silly little questions. Sigh, they just ignored my survey questions handwritten on little flowery note paper … I even put curly-cues on every one. So I’m left with conjecture. I’m making this all up. If I were actually brainy, and could serve as a subject matter expert, that would have been ideal and I wouldn’t have had to send around a poll at work.
I can’t be a subject matter expert though! When I stand beside truly brilliant people, I get the giggles thinking about all that I do not know … and I hold my breath and hope they don’t ask me any questions about Goethe or, God forbid, that I tell them that Igor Stravinsky was an author. Bury me. Now. I did that. #Lastweek. But! This week I’m so smart, and I’m going to tell you about what it’s like when smart people feel emotions. Yep. You’ll be looking at samples of swamp water next.
Anyway, thinkers who skate toward the most meaning-packed moments often view emotions like giving a large cat a bath in a bathtub. If you’ve never had a large cat or a bathtub, ask your doctor if this is the right analogy for you. However, for those of us who have had said cat and said tub can tell you that prior to bath time there is that sense that all is right with your home, and your world. The only thing is that Hoover needs a bath. That’s do-able, right? Just gonna get him wet. In just a bit, he’ll be clean and fuzzy. Right.
So you sort of plan how this is going to go, tepid to warmish water. A little bit of yummy cat shampoo. How bad can this be, right? Extra towels. Cat. “I thought I saw a Putty Tat.” You leave the water running and go find Hoover. Who plants his claws in you. Not getting in the tub. Tub. No tub. No.No.No. Bam! All the feet are spread like flying cat, tail going out the fifth way. Feline F-bombs are flying everywhere. You’re soaked, scratched. Clearly you’re not winning this one yet. You shift gears and realize that you’re in this thing until its done now, Pffft.
And so it is with emotions. It just all seems so ‘do-able’ to shed a few tears. To process this or that. Now. Like right.now. That makes sense, right? Right here at my desk … right? But then all the feelings plant their claws in you, and you are pinned. You’re stuck until you unravel, un-braid every last “She said, He said” until you’re drained. I don’t know about you but when I feel through a situation, I toss in a few extra issues: world hunger, Canada’s relationship with HRH Queen Elizabeth, the situation in Darfur, extreme weight loss … Okay, that was a lie. I have never cried about extreme weight loss. Last thought is that some emotions can completely baffle us. Love. Love completely baffles me. There’s no instruction manual for that one, can’t help you. It’s different for everyone. But that’s the point. It’s different. And that can be scary, eh? The unknown.
In spite of the wet cat planted on my chest, I have to laugh at myself, and be okay … with myself. If I was good at dealing with emotions I would rollick and roll with them, they would course through me like waves. Whether its confusion, frustration, happiness, sadness, love or anger, I would just let them run their course. But instead, kaboom! It’s time to feel an emotion. And there I am in the tub with Hoover … till it’s done.
This new bulletin has been brought to you by normal people, like you and me.
“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…” —Galatians 4:19
Do you ever wonder what Paul really meant when he spoke about Christ being formed in us?
If we think about the formation process, whether it’s cinnamon rolls or a pot pie on the manufacturing floor, there are the ingredients, climate, assembly, and cook time. Drawing on my experience in the food manufacturing business there are a lot of complexities to a pot pie or a bag of hermetically sealed, ready-to-cook popcorn. It’s important to note that in every case there are the ingredients, the DNA of the end product. Cinnamon rolls always have cinnamon, and popcorn almost always has genuine popcorn kernels. With us it’s true as well. The end product of who we are meant to be always begins with the right building blocks. Take heart, even if you are deeply in process of becoming your best you, you have the right raw ingredients! The Lord has seen to that already.
I’ve noticed when I take a step and venture into a new space even though I may fail miserably, I can’t help but see the raw ingredients of potential. At times it’s easier on my pride to focus on the potential instead of seeing and admitting to the growth opportunities too. Do you ever notice when a package arrives, even if it’s damaged beyond recognition you still have to acknowledge it’s arrival. The UPS guy stands there until you sign. I have a friend that wisely says, ‘You can denigrate the witness all you like but that doesn’t absolve you from acknowledging the message.’ And it’s true. Our growth opportunities can arrive in completely mangled packages but the package has still arrived at our doorstep.
The formation of Christ within us, or within a person that we love, is completely messy. No one ever prepares us. To care is freakishly messy. If you want to be tidy about your life, do not get involved. Do not care about a single person and you will be just fine. You’ll be alone. But tidy.
Our days are filled with repeat performances. Over and over again we go through something. The Lord is not about beating us with a stick. He’s usually building a skill set. The responsibility factor increases and we continue to repeat the same circumstances with greater authority, greater responsibility.
There are people who coach us, pray for us, contend for our best selves … they are the ones who labor until we get it. Likewise, we stick with a friend until she learns how to fight without being freakishly defensive and hurt. When we all learn to stand in love, to not capitulate at the sign of conflict, but manage our emotions and positions with kindness … that’s when the picture of Christ begins to emerge in our lives.
… till Christ is formed in you!
It’s been a few years since I’ve worked with men and women to help them find emotional freedom, but it’s during this time of year when I would see the telltale signs of things unraveling for friends and loved ones. I so wish they could see themselves as a very lovely, intricate package of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects which requires a safe and healthy climate in which to thrive. It’s sometimes challenging for me to observe a loved one reaching out for help when they cannot yet understand the mystery of their own heart.
Friend you don’t realize that you carry unresolved anger but you are frequently ill or on edge. You don’t perceive that you are grieving a loss but you can’t seem to get past the mid-80’s when that happened. You build walls of excuses around yourself until that wall closes you off from everyone in your life. Hopelessness consumes you, but you do not stop the process, and set things right for yourself.
Life is swirly. All the experiences that we have in a day or a year affect our lives in multiple ways: circumstances out of our control, feeling invisible, feeling rejected by a friend, ongoing disagreement with a loved-one, never fitting in. If we don’t learn how to express how we feel we eventually become a walking timebomb of toxic thoughts and feelings; these result in ended relationships, chronic illness, depression, college drop-out, broken marriages, unemployment, and homelessness.
As the Christmas holiday rolls in, make a commitment to know yourself. Find a friend that you can trust, with whom you can explore the beautiful mystery of you. It might take from now until next Christmas before you laugh again but you will not regret it. Allow your Heavenly Father to unveil the mysteries of Himself in this process as well. You might be surprised to find that He was there all the time…through the good, the bad, and the ugly. But most of all you will be able to embrace each holiday with laughter and thanksgiving. What a gift to give to yourself! Hope, Laughter, Joy, and Love!