One of the hardest things I could ever do is watch the people I love navigate seasons similar to the hardest one I’ve been through, myself. But, here we are.
When what’s-his-face told Esther that she “was made for such a time as this,” I don’t know if he ever could have imagined that being applied to my understanding of every worst decision I’ve ever made being the groundwork I needed to help other people dealing with those same kinds of mistakes or not. But, here we are.
Revisiting all of these things that surrounded the end of my first marriage and, really, the spiritual fall out that led to it, I’ve been trying to recall the best advice and help I was given so I could pass that on. And I’ve written before about the grace I was given then, and about the two individuals who just poured sustaining love grace into me early on, and how that carried my belief that Jesus is who He said he is, so definitely that.
But, just as important I think, was the permission I was given to feel.
For a long time, especially in my Christian life, I’ve worked to suppress and control my emotions. All in the name of taking them captive to Christ, right? If only. It had little to do with that, and more to do with white-knuckling though, never admitting defeat, and being “strong” (and if I’m totally honest, a lot to do with guilt about inconvenience my romantic partners, or making them uncomfortable).
But when everything fell away toward the end of 2016, I had this small circle of people who allowed me the room and granted me permission to feel what I felt. In hindsight, I really believe that made all the difference.
When I was in pain, I was reminded it wouldn’t last forever, but I was allowed to be in pain. When I was insecure and unsure, I was assured of the truth, but given the room to find it for myself. When I was grieving, I was held and supported with understanding and empathy.
And likewise, when I celebrated, my people celebrated with me. When I smiled, they smiled too. When I laughed, they laughed along. There was no need to dwell on my mistakes or decisions, there was no shame, or guilt. It was all freedom and all encouragement and all truth.
I was given the room and the permission to feel what I felt, good or bad, positive or negative; and it was so effective in helping me move through those things in a healthy and honest way.
And when I made it here, where I’m beginning to sift through the rubble of what my life was, what it is, and what I’d always hoped it would be, and I’m ready for it. I’m not walking in to this season with suppressed emotions or straight up denial like I have in the past.
I’m starting the hard work now of really allowing myself to accept myself as I am, allowing even the things that have brought me great destruction in the past to be redeemed for good, and letting go of old labels I’ve put on myself for too long. I really believe it’s because of the room I was given this whole last year to hear truth but also not have to deny the way I felt that has given me peace about this current and upcoming season. I know feelings will come, and with less resistance, feelings will go. I know I’m going to be okay.
That’s what I want for my friends. For my husband. For my kids. I want them to have room to feel the way they do. I want them to trust that the feelings that come might be awful, but that in giving them the permission they need, they’ll learn how to give it also to themselves and see the awful subside in time.
I think so often, especially as Christians, we’re so quick to remind one another about taking up our crosses, dying to ourselves, and taking our thoughts captive, and those are good things. Please don’t get me wrong. Those are good, godly, Holy things. I just doubt that means we can’t allow each other to grieve and be human and be honest. Or, jeez, even just be sad, sometimes!
God, Himself, IS emotional. He has feelings – it’s His feelings of love toward us that brought us Jesus, is it not? His desire for reconciliation is what led to our salvation, right? He IS love, it’s a characteristic of His being, and I know that love is often a choice or an action, but I don’t believe it must be completely void of feeling to be those things, also. The Bible talks at length about His love, His compassion, His sadness, His grief, His anger… That’s who and what we were created in the image of.
Feelings aren’t the devil, even if they might be manipulated by one from time to time. I think we need to give each other and ourselves the permission just to have them. It’s time to admit that denying them has gotten us nowhere healthy, and start learning how to move through them, and maybe, just maybe, channel them in good ways that can spur life.