My dad stopped by for an impromptu lunch today. He played with my son as I sautéed veggies on the stove. Then, we all sat down.
“Dad, was I a lot like William when I was little?”
“Oh, yes. You two are very similar.”
I sat there, looking at my son, and was thankful we are so alike. Then, my thoughts began to travel back to my childhood, and I imagined the two-year-old version of myself. For the first time, I realized what I must have been like–a total drama-queen-terror child.
I absolutely adore my son, don’t get me wrong, but he can be a handful when those emotions start to roll in. One minute, he’s smiling, and the next minute, he’s throwing himself down on the ground, wailing because his train fell apart or his sticker fell off or he can’t find his water cup. It’s hard to know exactly what to do in those moments. He’s also hysterically funny, very empathetic, and loves his friends more than I think most two-year-olds know how to. I inwardly thanked the Lord that we are so alike because it helps me understand him and love him well. And as I sat there thinking about my two-year-old self, I imagined my mother and how she must have seen me.
Very soberly I turned to my dad and asked, “Dad, what did Mom do when I would be all crazy?”
My Dad sighed and thought for a moment, “Well, honey, she would throw her hands up in the air and hold your little brother.”
I knew I must have felt rejected.
Hurting, confused, and alone.
I saw that poor little girl who had emotions so big that she didn’t know what to do and no one to help her understand them. I also saw my mother, overwhelmed and at the end of herself, staring at a wild child while trying to manage a four-year-old and nurse a baby. She didn’t know what to do either. I imagined going back and holding my mom’s hand, telling her, “It’s okay, your child isn’t crazy. She just needs your love and help right now. Take a deep breath and walk over there to her.” I also wanted to hug that frightened little girl and tell her that she’s beautiful and wonderful and those emotions are big, but they don’t have to be scary, that it’s going to be okay.
The truth is emotions have a lot of power in them. They can tie you to someone for life, and they can sever relationships. They are fickle and overwhelming. They can seem scary when you let them control you, and they can hurt you if you follow them too far.
It took me a long time to understand emotions. I even got a chart one time from a counselor when I was twenty-one. Sadly, it didn’t help much. When I was young, I think I tried to develop a coping mechanism to bottle everything inside. I say tried, but I failed miserably. Emotions were alarming, and I couldn’t manage them. The sad part is that I felt so strongly and so deeply that bottling them up never worked. I’d start crying if I was sad, if I was mad, if I was embarrassed, or really anything. I was a weepy child but only in secret. I would run away and hide when the tears started to fall. I knew I was too much for my mom to handle, so being alone was a way to comfort myself without the immediate rejection. It was safer, but it was also damaging. When I was alone, I would get even sadder because no one was with me and because I didn’t know how to deal with what I was feeling. It was a horrible mess.
Thankfully, I am older now, and the Lord, in all His kindness, has helped me understand a few things:
- Emotions are a beautiful wonder. They were given to us because God has them. He feels thousands and thousands times more deeply than we do. They are important and connect us to His heart.
- Being emotional is not shameful. Feeling deeply helps you connect with other people and creates a pathway between spirits to open up and love more easily.
- Understanding emotions helps you not be ruled by them. My emotions used to throw me back and forth wildly like I was tossing on the waves of a violent ocean. I have learned to lean into Him when those emotions start to overwhelm me. He is the safest place to be when you can’t see straight because fear has gripped you or when sadness is consuming you. He will help you see outside of those emotions, or He’ll let you sit in His arms until they have subsided (usually, I’m the second).
- Talking to your closest friends can help you see more clearly. Sharing what you are feeling or thinking, no matter how strange, is a powerful way to get those emotions in check. Wise counsel can bring a great deal of clarity.
The Father told me a secret one time, and it meant so much to me. You know how Paul talks about us all being members of one body, and Christ is the head? I’ve often thought about what body parts people are. Maybe that person is the hand because they are so helpful, or that other person is an arm because they are so kind and comforting. I was praying several months ago, and the Lord dropped this into my spirit,
“Dawn, I made you to feel deeply because I need you to feel deeply. You are a piece of my heart.”
I was floored, and I was humbled. My emotions had been such a burden to me my entire life, but now I knew that they served a purpose larger than I had ever dared to realize. They were His heart, and I felt deeply so I could love deeply. What an incredible honor.
Featured Image by Annie Spratt