If I don’t say it, it’s not true. If I don’t say it, it didn’t happen. If I don’t say it, I can sweep it under the carpet. Right? As much as my reticent Scottish ancestry would like to believe that, it’s not accurate. Feelings can only be suppressed for so long; events happen whether or not I verbalize them.
This past two years (more like seven), so many things have happened that I don’t want to acknowledge. But I’ve learned that acknowledgment and acceptance don’t necessarily equal approval.
By accepting that certain things ARE, I free my heart to figure out how to live with their realities without losing my mind.
But how on earth do you accept losing your second chance at love, your health, your finances, your job, your church, and your dreams for your family? Prayer, prayer, and more prayer! Then . . .
You get up, dress up, and show up! You put one foot in front of the other. You cry. And you cry some more.
Then you dry your tears and do the next thing. But the thing about crying is not allowing yourself to wallow indefinitely. So many bitter people wallow forever and never get through. They are stuck in the Fire Swamp of despair—like the quicksand in Princess Bride, but without hero Westly.
Whatever you do, don’t keep it all bottled inside! From experience, I can tell you that doesn’t work. Forty-eight years is a long time to keep a stiff upper lip. When you keep it bottled up, it bubbles over—”out of the abundance of the heart, [her] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). And that’s just not a pretty sound.
Feelings have to be traveled through. There is no around. Going through does not mean getting stuck in them, though. It means processing those feelings, so you can heal. Healing comes from going through, not from stuffing.
David struggled with this very issue when he was being pursued relentlessly by his enemies. He was honest with the Lord about his emotions, but he didn’t stay there. Many of the psalms document David’s struggle with accepting the hard stuff of life. One of my favorites is Psalm 79. David begins by telling God what others have done against him. Then he lets the Lord know what he’s feeling. “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” (v. 5). He is honest with God about his feelings; he doesn’t keep them bottled up inside. Rather, he gives them over to the Creator of feelings who knows best how to soothe them. He next asks for help:
“Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake! (v. 9).
But the real sermon in this psalm is the last verse. David gives thanks to the Lord WHILE he’s in the middle of his mess. That’s what we need to do, too.
For me, writing is often the way through hard stuff and its accompanying emotions. What’s your way through the quagmire of messy life?