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.
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It is right now, here in the midst of this chaotic world where we need to be able to convey Heaven to a friend or a stranger, our beloved or a foe. I’ve an example of one of those serendipitous moments where I simply knew that I was carrying Heaven for a near-stranger.
Years ago a conversation struck me as most poignant for, without prelude we began talking about exquisite beauty and that elusive emotion, joy. We both knew with certainty that the two are not the same. One so often thinks that with great beauty comes joy. And yet I could see violent pain in her eyes, and I said so.
Sometimes the greatest gift that we can give to someone is to identify with the moment they’re in; simply acknowledging the pain they’re stuffing deep inside can bring such permission. And permission is so empowering isn’t it?
I think what was surprising was not the seeing the pain but it was the surety in my words to her, “You need to go through the veil. You need to walk through your valley. This grief keeps bubbling up and you keep shoving it further down inside anytime it grabs you. The thing is, when a person refuses to feel the pain they also lose access to joy.”
It’s true that I’ve paid the price to be able to offer those words. I know from experience that pain and sorrow can catch you blindsided. Oh, without apology they’ll knock the wind out of you, and leave you motionless for years. The faraway look never leaves the woman in the mirror until she takes their hands and permits Sorrow and Sadness to teach her how to live.
We are incapable of loving deeply, of laughing stupidly loud, of rolling in the depths of undignified belly laughter until we follow the footsteps of pain … who has hurt you? What have you lost? What, oh what has slipped through your fingers like so many grains of sand?
Sometimes the greatest mistake we can make is trying too hard, going too fast with grief. Just say “Yes” to Father. He’s a gentleman about this sort of thing. You’ll know His voice when He asks again if you and He can look at this thing together. Sign up for the multi-year plan. In the end a few years that are set aside for grief-work are so much fewer than the decade you spent trying to avoid it. I might know about that first-hand. I’ll say this … the fruit of working through grief is being able to feel. Period.
Psalm 31 says, “Thou hast set my feet in a broad place.” The journey of unresolved pain and grief is constricted, and narrow. It’s like walking a tightrope. But that broad place that Father leads us into when we decide to look pain square in the eye, ah it reminds me of the nature of God Himself. It’s all upside down, you remember. We think pain and losses are His doing. They’re not but He’ll use them to lead us into a new space in life, a new vista that is more reflective of who He is.
The Kingdom of Heaven is about a wild range of emotions, and colors, and sounds. The Kingdom of Heaven is about people, and relationships and being able to scale the cliffs of pain, and releasing and embracing. A vibrant way to live. But it’s here on Earth that we learn how to live in the Distant Kingdom. Say yes.
Carry Heaven. Now.