When You’re Real
Too often we stifle our emotions.We sweep them under the carpet, tuck them away as neatly as possible and smother them with distorted-truths.Because to pour out myself, to feel, to admit and to come face to face with the current of each emotion, that is to vomit an ugly mess.
He says, “rejoice always,” so I can’t allow sadness. I will not show it.
“Fear not,” He whispers, so I convince myself that I am bold and fearless.
Emotion is weakness. I am supposed to be strong in Christ.
And with these distorted truths I am stuffing, pushing down every inch of emotion until I am completely numb. We numb ourselves just enough for everything to be still on the surface, but once the waves come and break the surface, we get a glimpse of the storm beneath. We isolate parts of Scripture and imprison ourselves with each word, denying our freedom to feel, freedom to express, vent and scream, telling ourselves there is no space for that.
Because its okay to not be ‘okay’ all the time. When I ask how you are, its okay to say, “I’m not okay”. Jesus wants us to feel and to feel fully. To deny your emotion is to deny your humanity
The glory of God is a human being fully alive – St. Iraneus
So often we hear it said, ‘don’t be lead by your emotions’, and therein lies truth; many have been led astray when they ‘follow their heart’ but why must we flit from one extreme to the other? We, like the trinity, are complete in one hypostases; mind, soul and spirit. We were made to live with those in unity.
“The desires of the heart are chosen more than gold and precious stone and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb” Psalm 19
We hear “the heart is deceitful, who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) and we want to pluck our hearts out…but a closer look at the Greek will tell you that the verse means that the heart is deceitful because it is hidden and it is deep. It’s true emotions are sometimes illusive, though they are not always deceptive. They are just a seasoning of the truth. And in the same way we shouldn’t believe everything we think, we should also be cautious to believe everything we feel. Because though emotions may be true for us, we must humbly realise they are not truth. And we must then do the work of not letting them colour our reality. This requires wise counsel and it requires the silence of the heart where God can speak and stand in the gap of the dichotomy between what we feel and what is real. In doing so, all emotion can be a sort of cleansing, a sanctification and a way of drawing nearer to Him, knowing Him more and knowing ourselves more – our true self – as God uniquely shares His truth through an authentic expression of His image in our life (and the flurry of emotions that wrap and unravel our days.)
Henri Nouwen writes:
“Our emotional lives move up and down constantly. Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos. A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings. Mostly we have little control over these changes. It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.
Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us. As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are. We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children”
Our emotions are a part of our heart, and tell us something that our mind and facts cannot. The innermost place for the human knowledge, feelings and decisions is the “heart.” (Isaiah 65:14; Jeremiah 24:7; Luke 2:19). The heart is the seat of wisdom (1 Kings 3:12). Emotions can be a symptom of the unseen, an uttering of the soul that needs to be addressed. And while we can feel negative emotions, we can choose to acknowledge them and then redirect.
Sometimes what we need more than anything are hospitable hearts – more people giving us an open space to express our emotions; no advice, no questions, no suggestions, just love. An open space that says your emotions are valid and need to be acknowledged because you feel them, and that is enough. An open space where someone whispers life by just saying ‘No, what you feel is not stupid’. But someone who also knows when to demand that you know you are loved and adored when your emotions speak otherwise. And someone who can listen and see with their hearts to gently guide you to find the deceptive truth beneath the emotions, the truths that are crippling and distressing your soul. We need people who will show us how to take those truths to the Truth, only the Truth; who with greater revelation of Himself shows us how we are forgiven and whole, and with that can cast “down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).
The only meaningful thing we can offer each other is love. Most importantly the love we need to love ourselves.
And to show our raw emotions, yes it is messy, but mess has never been synonymous with ugly. You can be an emotional mess, but you are a beautiful mess, because you are real. If you continue to suppress, you cannot address the mess, because it won’t just go away. “There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.” Henri Nouwen
Time is no healer of wounds, it is a mere soul-anaesthesia; numbing the pulse of the pain and with it the beauty in each battered day. For there is only One who heals, One who gladly took on the wounds, that He may be the salve for our every wound. And to numb the wound is to numb the belief in the Suffering Lover who cups our wounded frame in His wounded hands and restores us to Himself.
So breathe dear friend, and feel. May our image be that of the Image.
“No emotion is, in itself, a judgement; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. but they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.” – C.S Lewis
One toy talking to another:
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” – Velveteen Rabbit