A common statement would be:
Just spent an hour scrolling and saving photos of adopted children.. Cue the tears. Also, I promise I'm really innocent on top of being creepy. #EmotionalGirlProbz
My tweets and posts and comments were light-hearted, attempting some humor to make up for the tears or feelings. They could be triggered by a blog post, a photo, an engagement video of complete strangers. In a way, it was me saying, I know this is extreme and silly and I shouldn't feel so much, but if I laugh about it, then that makes it okay, right?
It was mostly a joke, and I was mostly able to laugh. But often, that smile was a guard. Forgive the cliché, but a mask. You see, there is this deep routed fear, some shameful voice inside speaking. You are too emotional. You need to cut it out. No one will like you if they find out how much you really feel. What is wrong with you?
Surprisingly enough, I grew most resilient when I was most affronted.
A couple years ago, I was in a relationship where I asked “How can I be better in our relationship? What should I do better? How can I help you more?” and with all honesty this boyfriend of mine replied so matter-of-factly, “You should be less emotional.”
Without knowing it, he spoke the words of my deepest insecurities.
Now, if he had said this at age 17, yes, that would have been an appropriate comment, although arguably, could be worded better. But in this particular instance, some years ago, it was not an emotionally immature time. Of course I had moments, but overall I was doing okay. Yes, in my nature, I had a lot of feelings but for the most part they were dealt with appropriately.
Luckily, there were two girls in my life who I could process this core-cutting comment with.... Girls who had seen me in my shiniest, most noble moments, but also (and probably more often) saw the weaker, immature, undisciplined, needy and insecure sides. They saw the cracks in my walls and the way my true colors bled. There was no fooling them. And when this unsettling conversation replayed late one night, where I gave way to tears in my eyes and confusion in my heart, they both had the same, loving, reaction.
“Oh, Lexie.... No.....”
With limited words and lots of back-pats (I'm not really that touchy-feely, so hugs are reserved for EXTREME moments of crises), they ministered to my questioning spirit, affirming my empathetic nature, embracing the parts of me that I had a hard time accepting. I wanted to know if my heart was okay – that there wasn't something totally wrong. And with love and honesty they met me in my brokenness and whispered life-giving truths.
I've come a long way on a path to self-acceptance... Taking a Strengths Finders test and seeing “empathy” as a top result helped a ton. (Lexie's Official Public Service Announcement: if you haven't taken this test yet, you need to...) But still, my ability to fight shame ebbs and flows. Just when I think I've knocked it down and blown it out, a new incident breathes in and fires up those pesky little embers.
Last night I arrived at church late. I had been feeling kinda funky and didn't feel like going. But I knew myself and new that's usually the time I need to be there the most. I slipped in during the last worship song, just in time for the pastor to initiate a time of personal prayer. And just like that, BOOM, tears started flowing. There was a good distance between me and anyone else. I was torn between letting the tears run their course and the shame that comes with the sniffling. What if someone is watching me? (Though in church I've realized no one ever is – think of the last time YOU were watching someone in a service. If this is a habit of yours, stop because that's weird.) So there I was, sitting and sniffling, my emotions warring with each other... Shame spoke loudest, with it's belittling and condescending voice.
If you don't have a reason to be sad, you have no right to be crying. What will you say if someone asks? Stop your tears before anyone sees.
Even now as I'm writing this, I feel a need to defend and explain. Why are we so ashamed of having feelings?
Last night, all the fibers of my being were pushing me to avoid, deny and reject the emotions springing up. I sent an SOS text to a friend.
“Just cried thru the prayer. Awkward.”
Speaking this “outloud” was enough accountability to deal with the emotions scratching and clawing their way through the walls around my heart. So I whipped out my journal and instead of stuffing the feelings, I wrote them out. Having a way to verbally process (again, through written words, not spoken), I was able to identify some of the causes. I was able to confess worries and put fears in perspective, and in the last 24 hours I have been releasing these emotions to the Lord... What a beautiful relief.
If I had stuffed and ignored, I'd still be carrying a burden I wasn't meant to bear. I would still be believing all kinds of lies that go against what God says. I would be trapped instead of free.
Now let me say something bold and crazy....
Emotions are a gift.
Really - They are a blessing.
Feelings are indications there is a SOUL inside that little body of yours. And that your soul needs some care. And that is okay.
Because lucky for us, we have a God who created us this way – created us to feel things and to experience joy, love, peace... We are also able to experience less pleasant things like sadness, loneliness, despair. I'm not sure the theology here, like - did God intentionally create those feelings? Or did they sprung up with our sin nature? IDK. But what I do know is that God uses all things. He uses the fear, the despair, the loneliness to draw you closer to him. The joy that comes in the morning is so intensified after the darkest night... or the beauty from seeing the first flower after winter. Being able to “feel” keeps me engaged in each day – it allows me to praise deeply and desperately cry out and fully love. Feelings tune my heart to sing His grace.
I am finally at a place where I am thanking God for my feelings. I'm wholeheartedly saying THANK YOU to God for creating me this way and creating LIFE this way. Because it is a mess some days but it is certainly beautiful and I am blessed to walk it out with Him by my side every step of the way.