Big Feelings and the Truth that Will Set You Free

Emotions in children are obvious. They do little to mask their feelings. They are unaccustomed to reigning in their emotions. Watch a tired, hungry toddler try to cope with a change in plans, and you won’t be guessing what he/she is feeling.

covered bridge

Somewhere along the lines some of us were left alone in those big feelings and then those feelings began to loom over us like giants. It began to feel like if we let the emotions be fully experienced we may get stuck in them, therefore those feelings became scary.

In learning about and healing from anxiety, I was faced with my own fear of feelings. I literally had no idea this was a problem. I was fully aware of my fear of heights, small spaces, and impromptu public speaking. But, a fear of feelings?

I first noticed some patterns in my daughters. One was beginning to “act tough” in certain emotional situations. The other was “freezing” in other emotional situations. Getting curious, I had to look at my own tendency to deny certain feelings when they came up, even if my family asked me, “Are you okay?” This denial of my feelings sent the message, “certain feelings are scary and should be avoided”.   I noticed my tendency to harden when people around me began to experience big emotions.

During this period of reflection, I was listening to a podcast (Anatomy of Marriage) in which a woman kept repeating the phrase, “A feeling is not truth. Just because I am feeling it, doesn’t mean it’s true”.

Something about that resonated with me and I wanted to apply it to my life.

Here’s what I found:

  • Just because I am feeling afraid, doesn’t mean I am weak.
  • Just because I am feeling overwhelmed, doesn’t mean I am alone.
  • Just because I am feeling dumb, doesn’t mean I can’t learn.
  • Just because I am feeling sad, doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.
  • Just because I am feeling embarrassed, doesn’t mean I am unworthy.

In my search, I am drawn to the Psalms in the Bible. David did not run from his big feelings. I can read an entire Psalm of David in less than a minute and read about feelings of despair, fear, hopelessness, joy, hope, peace, and strength all within one Psalm. David doesn’t deny his feelings. He doesn’t shame himself for his feelings. He doesn’t cast blame.  I notice a lot labeling of his feelings, vulnerably speaking his feelings to God, and seeking God for help.

I have to imagine there were times when David feared being stuck in an emotion such as sadness or fear. But, he kept the process going of taking his emotions to the Lord. He moved through the big feelings because he brought them to the light…to the Lord.

Friend, are you hurting today? Are you facing a scary situation? Are you feeling stuck? Might I encourage you, that they are just feelings. It may feel really scary and dark, but there is Truth that is real. There is Truth that heals. There is Truth that will set you free. And that’s the truth.

whistler

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Remembering Marital Advice 15 Years Later

I was wrong. I was so wrong and I had no idea.

The selfishness. The complete self-centeredness. Who did he think he was anyway? Putting himself first. Me, just an afterthought. Our family, just an afterthought.

In one little conversation that belief was shattered.

“Oh, just a minute, I want to sit there,” he gestured to the seat my bottom half was hovering over.

Here we go again. “What? I was just about to sit there. Did you ever think that I might want to sit there?”

“I know, but I’d like to sit there.”

Wow, just, wow, I am thinking to myself. But, being the more mature one, I will be the one to sacrifice the desired seat at the restaurant. I will put my self aside and move to the other side.

But, I couldn’t just let it go.

“Can I just ask you, why you want to sit there?”

“I just want to be able to see out,” he says.

“Did it ever occur to you, that I also want to be able to see out?” I snark out.

“Yes, but I want to be able to see what’s going on,” he says so nonchalantly.

“Yes, and I ALSO want to be able to see out,” I retort.

“But, I want to make sure you are safe,” he says while opening the menu.

My ears heard the words but my brain was stunned.

“What?”

“I want to see what’s coming, so I can keep you safe.”

Scanning the restaurant, as my brain processes the words I am hearing, I ask, “You mean, like safe from a bad guy or something?”

“Yes,” he shyly replies.

My mind races as I begin to entertain the thought that I was wrong. He wasn’t being selfish? He wasn’t trying to steal the seat I wanted? He wasn’t thinking of himself first? All the times we sat down in restaurants and I had to move from my seat so he could have the seat he wanted, he was actually doing it for my benefit. While I was feeling wronged and unjustly treated, I was actually being cherished and protected by my husband denying himself and putting me first.

It may seem like a small thing. I resisted writing about this for weeks. But it just kept creeping back into my mind. Almost 15 years of marriage and I was so wrong about my husband’s motives, about his heart in just this one situation.

But, wait a minute. If I was wrong in this one situation, in which it repeated itself over and over again, could…there…be…other…situations…in…which…I…was…*gulp*…wrong?

When we are walking in Seattle and he walks 5 feet in front of us rather than my desired place of side by side with the girls and I, could he be looking out for us? Once, again, sacrificing himself to ensure the safety of his family.

When walking through crowds, pushing himself in front of us….Yes, you guessed it…again protecting, keeping watch.

Always assume the best.

The piece of advice our pastor gave us during our premarital counseling ran through my mind taking stock of all the wrong thinking I had held onto over the years.

“When in doubt, always assume the best,” the pastor had said to us during our engagement.

I remember hearing it, taking note of it, and thinking to myself, “that will probably come in handy”. But, in the thick of things, that wise piece of simple advice got pushed so far down as my…my…my…selfishness reared its ugly head.

Thank you, Lord, for revealing my wrong thinking. Please continue to open my heart and my mind to see others the way you see them. Help me to be quicker at assuming the best and seeing the heart of others.

lake

“…the LORD said to Samuel, Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7, NLT