I shared recently that I’ve been experiencing emotions that are quite new and powerful to me. They rise up, quite unexpected, and honestly unsettle me.
I’m not used to feeling my heart on my sleeve. I’m the kind of person who takes in an experience and ponders it slowly, deciding how I feel about it and how I want to respond. I’m slow to feel, you might say, always wanting my feelings to match what seems most fitting or right or true to a situation.
As much as I have often thought that approach to my emotions is the equivalent of wisdom, I’m learning these days, as I experience my emotions much more in the moment, that it keeps me from really knowing myself. This slow to feel approach has served as a shield of sorts — a shield that keeps me from knowing my heart, my emotions, my true response to situations, and even, in some ways, the depths of my own depravity.
That’s not always helpful.
And so God has been giving me the gift of my emotions lately, even as they don’t feel much like a gift at all. When the emotions are hard, or when they cause me to sin against another in my heart, I wish this gift wasn’t being given to me at all.
And yet I can read the psalms and be reminded that this is, in fact, a good thing:
Count yourself lucky —
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.
When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.
The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.
Then I let it all out;
I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”
Suddenly the pressure was gone —
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.
— Psalm 32:2-5
Those images of bones turning to powder, of pressure never letting up, and of the juices of one’s life completely drying up … they’re pretty vivid, aren’t they? We get this sense of what happens when we hold everything in and don’t let it out. Our bones dissolve to powder from the pressure of holding those feelings down and down and down. Just like a covered pot of steaming food will eventually dry up if it’s left covered too long, so will the juices of our own lives dry up when we hold inside the truth of the emotions we feel.
So I’m doing as the psalmist says today and counting myself lucky. I’m lucky because the truth of my emotions can’t go unnoticed right now, and so I bring that truth to God. And in the places where those emotions cause me to sin, I confess it and am set free.