Growing up with an older brother, I often found myself doing whatever it took to be just like him. And in my mind, this meant avoiding anything “girly” and doing my best to blend in with “the guys.” I taught myself to belch, tried to pretend that I enjoyed watching football on t.v., and convinced myself to numb any and all intense emotions, to eliminate the risk of being seen as an overdramatic girl.
All these efforts didn’t produce much, especially considering my brother likely didn’t even notice all the energy I was putting into being as cool as he was. In fact, the most substantial consequence of this futile attempt was to become pretty proficient in numbing my emotions. Unfortunately, as I later went on to engage in counseling and studying mental health, I learned that I cannot selectively numb emotions--by training myself to stifle my feelings in an effort to not come across as needy or dramatic, I successfully developed the skill of numbing all my emotions, including the pleasant ones.
As I have grown in my discovery of how God wired our minds, bodies, and spirits, I have learned the vital role that our emotions play in our interactions with others and with God. He has designed our emotions to function as a sort of red flag, to give us information about our environment and to catch our attention when we need to focus and respond.
Feeling anger can inform us that our bodies, minds or hearts have been violated.
Feeling joy can catch our attention and direct us to fully savor the moment we are experiencing.
Feeling sadness can prompt us to recognize a reality of loss and to then take time to grieve.
God created human beings to be beautifully complex, to emulate His own complexity as we are created in His image.
But, the only way that we can use our emotions to their full potential of utility is to allow them to interrupt us. Emotions can often produce a physical response in us that is inconvenient, embarrassing, or inconsistent with the persona we are aiming to project. In my case, engaging my emotions fully would certainly disqualify me as a cool, even-keel ‘big kid’ like my older brother.
And as I matured, the potential for emotional disruption was amplified as I feared that by allowing emotions such as fear, anxiety, disappointment, or even excess joy or satisfaction, I would somehow expose a weakness or character flaw to those around me. So in numbing these emotions, I maintained some semblance of ‘control’ while also completely missing out on the messages those emotions were trying to provide for me.
Holy Spirit speaks to us through many avenues, including our thoughts, physical sensations, and our emotions. In order to receive His promptings, guidance, and affirmations, we have to be available to be interrupted. This often requires setting aside our agenda to tune into what He may be speaking to us through our emotions.
When I am able to allow myself to fully engage in whatever feeling I have in that moment, not to be completely driven by it, but rather to soak in it and acknowledge it, I have the opportunity to engage in a rich and raw connection with Holy Spirit. Without shame or fear, choosing curiosity and trust, I can press into my emotions and notice where He is moving and speaking to me.
It is in these sweet moments of abandoning my agenda and apprehensions, I allow the interruption of an emotion and engage with the message Holy Spirit has for my heart.
For the choir director: A psalm of David.
O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
About the Author
Britni is a quiet but fearless spirit who is earnestly seeking the beauty of the redemption that Jesus has personally determined for her life. Committed to the truth that listening breeds understanding and understanding results in compassion, she clings to the power of life’s stories. She has embarked on the venture of discovering her own story and lending an ear to the stories lived out in others and savors the trace of Jesus that is woven throughout them all. Currently, that journey has landed her in a balancing act between the role of wife, momma, and a mental health therapist.