It’s hard to put into words the torrent of emotions that have defined this last year of my life. I have struggled in ways I never thought I would, but as it would turn out, I’m just as susceptible and human as anyone else.
Perhaps that sounds a bit conceited. But to borrow a popular colloquialism, the struggle is all too real my friends. When you’re young, you want to believe that you’re exceptional and invincible, somehow above the menial problems that seem to plague others needlessly. That maybe, you can somehow get through this life without experiencing the repercussions of being human.
I admit, the logic there isn’t exactly in tact. I’m not even sure what I was aspiring to. “I am human, so therefore, let me deny my own natural tendencies of ‘humanness’ to the point that I cease being one?” You don’t even have to think about that statement to recognize its errancy. Ceasing to be a human means ceasing to exist. And that’s definitely less than ideal, so what exactly was I desiring?
There was a movement in the early church among a small group known as gnosticism in which the material and physical world was rejected. The soul was believed to be good, but the body was believed to be evil. Therefore, any pleasure derived physically was also evil. What a horribly unfortunate way to live. Though they were physical, they were not allowed to exist in a way that allowed them to appreciate their physical experience in a physical world around them.
Now, gnosticism is not grounded in proper theology or doctrine, but people still adopted those beliefs and lived divided against themselves. Unwilling to accept the human existence for what it was. I have been guilty of doing the same. Not in the rejection of physical, but rather by rejecting the emotional aspects of humanness. I’m not sure when exactly I started equating strength with a lack of emotion, but somewhere along the way, I started to suppress how I felt so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain that the emotions brought with them. I was also so frustrated with how emotionally driven some girls are that I was determined not to join the club. But I went too far with that.
Growing up in a home that was deeply embedded in Christian principles, I knew how I was “supposed” to feel about things. And when I didn’t feel that way, I would make it so I would. But that’s not Christianity. That’s not how God intends it to be. If it were so, He wouldn’t have provided us with a seemingly bottomless arsenal of emotion. He wants us to feel things, to truly experience life through all the capacities He has given us. He wants us to live life passionately. The standards He gives us are not to hinder us, but rather to help us experience life, and “life more abundantly.” (John 10:10). In fact, He came down to earth and lived a physical life with all of its ramifications to prove it. Jesus’ life on earth is perhaps one of the most moving accounts of passion ever recorded. And Jesus was emotional. In fact, he wept (John 11:35).
I’m not saying that our emotions should consume us. We will feel many things that contradict what God has clearly established as truth in His Word. I’m merely saying that emotions should not be ignored and suppressed. They need to be dealt with. They need to be addressed. They need to be felt.
I am of the opinion that the Christian community could do a lot better by not being so scared of genuine emotion in regards to pain or loss. This is life, everyone. It’s how it works. Sometimes, slapping a Christianese band-aid on something does more harm than it does good. In fact, it can wound further. For the record, there is a lot of emphasis and value placed on being slow to speak in Scripture. I’m not denying the good intentions behind the words. However, I don’t think that it is a good testimony to the love we profess to be recipients of. As Christians, it’s both ignorant and arrogant to pretend like there is an easy answer to everything. Sometimes, life just hurts. Sometimes, we need to sit in silence and hold people’s hand as they cry, and cry along with them. Sometimes, we need to be silent with ourselves as well. It’s okay to allow time for healing. And it’s okay to admit that sometimes, healing takes a long time.
This does not, of course, change the character of God or His truth in anyway. Circumstances don’t dictate who God is. And neither do our emotions. That is not the point. The point is, you cannot live an effective, fulfilled life when you are aspiring to be more than human. I mean, if you’re reading this, you are one. So, be human! Be genuine! Be okay with not being okay. Don’t allow yourself to become a white-washed shell, empty of the reality of who you were created to be. As the wise president Abraham Lincoln once noted, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Though he was referring to a nation, the same holds true for an individual. Embracing who I am, emotions and all, is terrifying and overwhelming, but necessary.
And the good news is, I am not without hope throughout my journey. Not because I am somehow exceptional, but because I serve a God who is. In Psalms 84:5-7, it says:
“Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it into a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.”
According to the Ryrie Study Bible, the Valley of Baka is not a specific place, but it references two different things, both of which conjure strong images. It is a reference to a place of weeping, as the Hebrew word Baka is derived from the root meaning “to weep,” as well as a reference to a valley of desolation, as the Hebrew word Baka is from the singular word for “balsam trees,” which grow in arid ground. Incredible. As I continue on my pilgrimage, valleys of desperate weeping and desolation will be made into places of springs as I entrust God with everything, including my emotions.