Practicing Introversion

It’s 9:30 p.m., and I’m an hour out from the ending of this week’s emotionally demanding “change group.” One of this week’s conclusions included the recognition that I don’t have (don’t take) enough time to introvert. To sit with my thoughts and be, and process, and feel, and think (conclusions optional).

It’s a funny awareness. It’s like a low-level hum that zeros out as white noise, but adds to the busyness (demand) on my senses.

I’ve said many times that I’m not a quality-time person, I’m a quantity-time person.

That is, I don’t know how to simply focus on a person– at least, I don’t think so, because every time I try I get bored, irritated, or annoying. It’s just easier and more sustainable to simply be around someone and do stuff in each others’ vicinity. Converse, say. Or play a game. Or read, or watch a movie. Or eat, or cook, or ignore each other while you sit on the same couch with your shoulders touching and a screen in your lap.

See, I’ve got all sorts of ideas for this. A real-life set of examples.

But none of these let me be absolutely alone, or off-duty.

I was thinking of this on the ride home, thinking it would be bedtime, I’d send the no-longer-littles off and stay up a bit myself (as I did back in the toddler stage) to think by myself and compose a complete idea. This feels like it shouldn’t be so reactionary any more, but it is.

The dog is sleeping under my legs, and it both creates and soothes an achy part in my chest to have her near.

Two-months-from-13-year-old Melody comes out, and my gut falls. I was alone, “Why do you need me an hour after bedtime?” I ask. And I go on. “This is my time to be alone. I don’t get time during the day, you know?” I feel like she’s deciding whether or not to be hurt, and I keep going. “You know how you go off on your own, no matter how much you adore your mama, you spend time alone during the day.”

She nods, and a grin creeps onto her face.

“Well I don’t get that during the day. So I need you to let me have that now, after bedtime. And to try and solve your problems yourself right now– preferably by going to sleep, because it is after bedtime.”

And she accepts my ultimatum with a smile that I intensely need to see, because for all my assertions, I’m really not okay with her feeling alone with her problems. It’s one of my old wounds and something I wish away for everyone. Maybe even one of the shapers of my life-purpose: not to fix everything, or anything. Or anyone– but to be a witness, a resource, an encourager, rather than know anyone sits alone in their pain.

This is the beauty of written words: from blogs to poetry to novels and love notes. When I hold a book, read an article, I am engaging in something magical. I am inside the mind and emotions of another fully aware and generous human being.

When you read these words, or an email someone crafted especially for you, know you are the recipient of a gift of faith. As a writer we may write for ourselves, but we also write for the reader. I have an image of you, the reader, even now as I type this with my feet propped on the coffee table that never holds coffee.

You are an incredibly patient, and probably curious individual. You’ve made it through 600 words of mindful rambling, and you’re still reading now, maybe wondering what profound (or empty) conclusion I will come to, because I’ve just about exhausted your patience.

I don’t have one.

Not really. I’m writing because this Tuesday night group (and the women in it) have challenged me over and over to look at (for) my true self, and what has been missing from my peace and wholeness. Two of those things are writing and stillness. So that’s what I’m making happen tonight.

This was 30-minutes.  Exactly. And the peace of the exercise is its own testimony. Maybe it will say something to someone else, too.

Peace to you.

 

The Convergence of Expertise

It started out badly enough: a journalism background muddying the waters of my novel-creating.

My scrupulosity — the need to cite/confirm/reality-check everything — was getting in the way of just creating a high-stakes story.

I eventually separated that (in my head) by pretending I was one of those high-output authors who just roll with the story and write it as it comes, waiting till the story is done (and someone complains that it doesn’t work) before seriously considering that something is weird or unrealistic.

Last I checked, a lot of the reason people read is the alternative from reality. (As long as it supports their core view of reality — but that’s another conversation.)

Then, just a couple weeks ago, I shifted from a word-glut of novel-production (that is NaNoWriMo) to prepare for a sudden opportunity to bring storytelling into a local middle school.

And discovered another level of complexity.

It makes me think of the red Snap-On toolbox my dad used for his work as a mechanic in the first half of my growing-up years.

The thing was taller than me (with drawers that slid beautifully smooth, and a satisfying solidity that let one bang the drawer shut  for clangs upon clunks as the tools collided at closing), and no matter how full it got, it never ceased to amaze me that a) more might fit or b) more were needed at all.

Eventually I learned about metric vs. empirical measurements, and the need (essentially) to double ones tool stash in order to best interact with different systems.

Add a third measurement system (tonakle?) and you start to see the convergence of journalism, noveling and storytelling.

All require similar skills, and understandings of a fairly consistent process or structure: Problems – real, natural, or created – are encountered, and decisions must be made and/or consequences ensue. That is the core of everything I deal in.

But journalism (what I began with my formal, college degree) uses what I would call the empirical system. It is (sometimes) less elegant, but definitely complete and logical. And (having the advantage of being brought up in the system), it feels as natural as any externally prescribed system to label the world I’m interacting with.

Words themselves are a system of labels, and God knows I’m comfortable with those.

Noveling, as I encounter and interact with it, is more like the metric system. Decidedly more elegant than raw journalism, “literature in a hurry,” noveling gets to make sense (in fact, most readers demand it).

Mark Twain is attributed with this gem: “Of course life is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”

Sense and symmetry in journalism is like the beauty in nature as distinguished from the beauty in human-created art; it most-emphatically exists, but we don’t generally get to choose when.

That said, just like a good photographer can bring meaning and (through that) beauty with the angle of a lens, in the way s/he chooses to frame an image of reality, just so a journalist can seek or distill beauty from a hard place.

Noveling has the freedom to be deliberately beautiful, a freedom that can become a beloved obligation.

I’ve made peace with that. I’m wresting into cooperation my two major art forms of the last 13 years.

And then, Storytelling.

Orally. Out loud, in front of an audience: attentive or indifferent, it doesn’t matter.

Let me rephrase that: It most-definitely makes a difference how engaged the audience is, but my job doesn’t change. If I was more of an expert, I might feel more of an obligation to make sure the audience was connected, no matter what.

At my current level of skill, my focus must still be on the story as much as the audience, and if this particular story doesn’t connect with an individual, all I ask from that listener is a quiet patience till the end where you’ll soon get the chance to try an alternative on for size.

Storytelling is another animal altogether.

It has the requirements of the novel:

  • It must entertain, or why will anyone listen?
  • It has elegance and symmetry, because those are ingredients of beauty as well as aids to memory

But it also reminds me of journalism, because the stories tend to be short and spare– a description that invokes a reaction, not necessarily because of the exact words chosen (since the piece is seldom memorized) but primarily because of the content itself.

When I talk about massive snakes growing out of a man’s shoulders (something, in all my years of folklore I’d never seen before this story), people react. And why wouldn’t they? The original teller told it to get a reaction, and so do I.

That is the work of every journalist, every novelist and every storyteller. To grab the imagination of that consumer of our words.

Ah, but the means.

Knowing the difference between the systems has become so important. This is where the tools can start to slip, or have to be held so carefully in order not to strip the useful edges and angles from what we’re working on.

My Voice

I had a sudden memory this morning.

Four months ago, when I still hoped I might be able to find a place I belonged in my old church, I visited Saturday night mass at the Catholic church down the road.

(That might sound contradictory, but work with me here.)

Image © Patrizio Martorana

Image © Patrizio Martorana

During the years I was depressed and my mind burdened by more than it could carry, I found tremendous relief in attending midweek mass.  The church was 10 minutes down the road (a big deal now that I lived outside of town), and the priest has a heavy, heavy accent.

He grew up in India, investigated “all the faiths” and chose Catholicism. He met Mother Theresa. Doesn’t eat food that isn’t fresh and says that’s why he’s never been sick in the seven years since he came to Alaska.

Very interesting man. Wonderful smile.

We did St. Raphael’s VBS a few years back, and I got to learn the meaning of a parish. The idea of people worshiping together that also live near one another.

After the last day one of our new friends invited us to join them at a local park, and they got to talking about the “new” priest, and how hard is was to understand him sometimes.  I don’t know if I realized at first I was defending him, but I shared that one of my favorite aspects of visiting the church was feeling of foreignness.

That is, I imagined what it must have been like for new believers to try and understand a non-native speaker communicate a comforting but unfamiliar ritual. It all held great significance to me.

I can’t explain the warmth I felt when the other mother said, “Wow. That actually makes me like him more.”

~ ~ ~

Feeling a great deal of turmoil this spring, feeling isolated, I remembered the community and comfort St. Raphael’s had offered in the past, so I slipped into Saturday Evening Mass and soaked.

The second week I attended (the memory that struck me and made me want to tell this story), one of the women Cantors (song leaders) was an older soprano. And she had my voice.

That is, I recognized the way she sang.

There are different qualities and sounds of Soprano. I have my likes and dislikes, and my voice can be in either of those categories depending on the work I want it to do. But she was a mirror.  For the first time, maybe ever, I got to hear what I sounded like, not from a speaker, a recording or in my own head, but eight feet from the instrument itself.

Twice I nearly cried.

Now I know what people mean when they say I can sing.

I am not perfect, but I’m good, especially in the range and type of music suited to the voice. I have a good instrument, and if I’m not thoughtful in the way I use it, I can tear myself down.

And this makes me think so much about the rest of me. My gifts, my inclinations, my duties and delights.

~ ~ ~

I once was in a really foul mood, and verbally attacking myself (speaking the truth, I called it then). God somehow got my attention and gently asked if I would speak to my dear friend Jana that way.

Instantly my mind replayed all the abuse, and my imagination showed me pouring it over this gentle-spirited, loving individual. I sobbed, horrified that I might be capable of such a thing, how I’d never want to hurt someone like that.

It was as if God was asking, How are you different from her? Why treat one of my daughters this way?

I heard my voice in a new way.

And I made a change.

When Words Become Abusive

Image courtesy of Linden Laserna via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Linden Laserna via stock.xchng

I put the words “verbal abuse” in the keyword search engine for my local library, and one of the titles it brought back was a grammar [correction] guide.

That made for a great joke on Facebook, but no one asked why I was researching that topic (in fairness, I research a lot of random stuff as a novelist).

One of my skills is what I call “instant extrapolation,” the power to see A and reach G very quickly. I am very sensitive to attitudes and approaches to life and theology that grow into gross misrepresentations of God and his character.

But you see that word, sensitive?

“Admitting” sensitivity in some environments is tantamount to saying your awareness is not representative and may, therefore, be written off.  “Most people are fine,” the math seems to say. “This is just a random data point. Doesn’t matter.” She doesn’t matter.

Having removed myself from an environment that contained mental and emotional abuse, I am already feeling stronger, but I have continued to wrestle with the language to articulate what I walked away from, and I struggle with the question of grace.

That is, I really don’t expect people to be perfect (I am too aware of my own imperfection), so how do I make the distinction between carelessness, or foolishness, and abuse?

I came across a set of words recently that was a huge help in this process.

A few years back there was a huge on-line exchange between some pretty big names in the Christian world, including The Gospel Coalition, Rachel Held Evens and others.

This post includes the relevant links, but also the illustration of that point that has become so important to me.

Words are my gift, but (as much as I joke about it) reading minds isn’t.

I will do my best to be not-unkind, but I cannot control my own ignorance.  I don’t know what I don’t know, so I assume I will hurt people at times. I wondered if this made me an abuser.

The people who hurt me are still at least acting clueless, so I couldn’t figure out the distinctions.

Then this post. She says many meaningful and relevant things, but summed up my own pain and frustration in these words:

My issue is that a violation has occurred and no one will so much as even own it. My issue is that I am hearing almost the exact same words in the exact same mentality and attitude that were spoken to me when I was personally violated and spiritually abused: “I didn’t mean for it to be offensive, so if you’re offended, you’re wrong.”

It made me think of a (disappointingly common) scenario in my own household.

One child will be waving a stick, or throwing a rock, or swinging a toy around like David’s sling, and it will “impact” a sibling who was equally oblivious to the activity as the perpetrator was of the other child’s presence.

I have witnessed the wounder trying to prevent the hurt child from coming to a parent, and, failing at that, accompany the child to loudly protest innocence, even as tears roll over a rising welt on the wounded child’s cheek.

“I didn’t mean to hurt!” is the unchanging refrain, as if intent will absolve them of the effects of reality.

“The fact is, you did,” I always say. “What you meant doesn’t matter any more. You owe him/her an apology.”

This is the missing piece.

This is how I keep from becoming those I used to fear. I acknowledge hurt. I acknowledge ignorance. I acknowledge there is more than I understand, and that a person is worth my compassion, not my condescension.

Brother, if your sister tells you it hurts, it just hurts. If your sister tells you it wounded her, it just wounded her. And all any of this condescension and evasion of responsibility is doing is showing her that your need to be right is worth attempting to argue her out of her violation.

Jamie Finch from The Fig Tree

Courage

Courage is a virtue recognized in every culture.OneWord2013_Courage150

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point, which means at its point of highest reality.

A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions.

–C.S. Lewis

In The Mystery of Courage, author William Ian Miller asserts courage is unique among the virtues because it is the only one where stories of its opposing vice are less gripping or tantalizing than stories of the virtue. ;}

This is a story of my rediscovering courage.

~

There are two kinds of courage: physical courage and moral courage.

Both types, as General William Sherman observed, involve a full awareness of the risk involved, and a willingness to endure that risk.

There is an additional, third element within moral courage, and that is a driving motivation of some deeply-held principle.

When, at the end of December, I designated 2013 as a “Year of Courage” for me, I was not looking at these definitions.

I could not tell you what danger I felt was arrayed against me, or the mental math that I undertook to decide what made the risk worthwhile, or even what risk I felt I was taking.

Image courtesy of Bina Sveda via stock.xchng

What I could tell you is that months off of a two-year depression I was still a fearful person.  Not consciously, but pressed by a friend I admitted that I made most of my decisions primarily through the matrix of safety.

I did whatever I could to minimize every kind of risk, but it didn’t make me feel any safer, only claustrophobic.

Then, during Thanksgiving break, I read a blog post that made me ask, “What could I accomplish if safety wasn’t my primary objective?”

Continue reading »

Looking Ahead, thinking about 2013

Two years ago Becky sent me a little pewter badger necklace after I described my sudden affinity for the critter.

Notes I’d collected across the internet had me using the term “totem” for the badger. Not totem in the mystical sense, but in the classifying sense:

Totems are chosen arbitrarily for the sole purpose of making the physical world a comprehensive and coherent classificatory system.

Lévi-Strauss argues that the use of physical analogies is not an indication of a more primitive mental capacity. It is rather, a more efficient way to cope with this particular new mode of life in which abstractions are rare, and in which the physical environment is in direct friction with the society.

Firth and Fortes argued that totemism was based on physical or psychological similarities between the clan and the totemic animal. Totems are a symbolic representation of the group.

[All the applicable bits from Wikipedia]

“A Bucketful of Puppies” courtesy of ivanmarn via Stock.xchng

The point? I was in a hunker-down and endure mode, and honestly, for me, thinking about a badger (and how they, too, are created by God along with the more-photogenic or likable puppies and kittens and ponies of the world) and their rather singular focus on food and defending self and home…

I could really identify with that for a while.

That’s why 2012’s shift into hope was so delightful to me.

The depression wasn’t lifted (yet) in the beginning of 2012, but the weight was lifted enough that I could begin to see out from under it, that there was life in sight.

I think of it now, this word-and-verse-for-the-year stuff, because this year is ending, and a new word has come to me.

Two words, actually, like a progression. My brain has split them, one for 2013, and one for 2014.

I have a new (old) necklace that means something with this year’s word.

For months I hardly took off the badger necklace from Becky, and had all the awkwardness of trying to explain an abstract thought to people who just thought it odd or noteworthy I had this random animal on me.

“Looks like there’s a story, there!” more than one person said. And they were right, but it wasn’t a short one.

I don’t know if I’ll wear this one as long, but I have proven to myself that tangible, tactile reminders are very effective for me, and help me stay focused.

I really like looking back and seeing what the symbols of the last few years have been.

Image courtesy of Charlie Balch via Stock.xchng

They seem like cards. Playing cards.

They’re not dealt at regular intervals, or at least the intervals don’t look regular to me, but now they’re in my hand, and somehow I’m accumulating these skills or lessons.

Endurance, the act of endurance, was part of my hope. The almost-surprised I’m-still-here that seemed to make hope possible.

And part of Hope is anticipation. I’m not waiting for nothing. The coming years’ “cards” (two words that I see splitting between two years) are founded on a hope that does not disappoint and on what comes before.

I love reviewing that pattern (from Romans 5) because without trying I see the pattern reproduced in my life.

And that is why the “year’s verse” from Psalm 119:74 is so delightful to me. Without trying. I used to irritate some women in various young-mom groups with my reflexive gratitude for not being alone in ‘this parenting thing.’ I don’t have to try really hard; I just love my husband.

And that’s the way I see this image of bringing joy to others: that somehow it’s who I am or what I’m already doing that has this impact.

At least, that’s the way I want it to be.

I am such a do-er that when I feel threatened I react and defend myself by not-doing.

And then I’m usually miserable, because I’ve not been designed to enjoy “nothing.”

What I am trying to learn (when it’s on my mind– I have scads of stuff I’m trying to learn) is how and when not to be my own defender. To do what I’m supposed to do in a given situation without tying it to what has come before, or the way people do or don’t treat me.

I have spent years trying to adapt and be better at understanding people, and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. But what’s come out more and more is that even understanding people doesn’t give you power over them.

It may provide influence, or give you a (longer) chance to be heard, but in the end they’re still going to make their choices for themselves, and influence only goes so far.

Image courtesy of Mateusz Atroszko via Stock.xchng

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called The Village Blacksmith. It is a character sketch of a good man, and there’s this bit I think of every time I think of being debt-free– in any sense.

 His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

When I think of giving, when I think of delight in giving, that anticipation comes out of a full heart.

“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.”

Pearl S. Buck

It doesn’t come out of a sense of obligation, or keeping up, or earning what “they” deem to sell me, such as grudging acceptance, or tolerating my existence.

Psalm 119:74 still applies to this year’s word, because of this element: I want to “look the whole world in the face,” and owe no debt to any, save the debt of love.

My word this year is Courage.

OneWord2013_Courage150

My “Word for 2012”

At the beginning of 2012, more than ever before, I saw other bloggers talking about their “word for the year.” Even when it felt normalized (rather than capricious or trendy) it was still scary to me.

To claim that I was going to focus on this topic/image/virtue/goal for the coming year was intimating because I wasn’t sure I could focus on anything for a year.

Repeated defeats and distractions will do that to a person.

Even so, I prayed about it because I really love words. And the idea of having a pet word, an anchor for thoughts and prayers and meditations (when I remembered it, at least) was very appealing.

And I got my very own word for the year.

And didn’t tell anyone, because I was afraid. I was afraid of making a big deal out of something that would turn out not to be a big deal.

Because, honestly, when you’re declaring one word is enough to last you the e.n.t.i.r.e. year, you’re calling it a big deal. I work with words and I know what I’m talking about.

The word I got this January was hope.

In January I was (un)well into my second year of depression, but I was starting up with a new counselor (my third– there’s a story in felt-failure: that it took me three tries to find the right someone), and finding new books, and had a sense of anticipation.

I can’t say it was necessarily about “the coming year,” but it was about life in general, and I was ready for hope.

It was (I believe) in that second linked book that I read (and latched onto) a definition for “hope” that I’ve repeated many, many times this year.

Hope is the assurance that *now* is not permanent.

That is, of course, only a partial definition. It expresses a desire for change (for the better) but not enough of the positive anticipation.

I did a word search through the bible while the word hope was on my mind. About the same time, one of the elders in our church urged all of us to choose a “verse for the year.”

I feel a bit the same about verse-for-the-year as I do about word-for-the-year; only you’re not allowed to say that you think a bible verse isn’t big enough to last a year, so naturally I just was quiet rather than draw attention to myself about how I doubted I’d commit to one of those, either.

Mostly I didn’t want to start one more thing, build it up, in my head or in public, and then notice six-months later that this centering verse, chosen to draw all the craziness of Life toward a single focus, did nothing more to contain the centrifugal spatter of my life than it did cozied next to the verses that were its normal companions.

I just don’t need the extra pressure or resultant discouragement.

But even though I rationally and objectively felt this way, I still liked the idea of searching the scriptures to see if anything “popped,” and combined with the word hope, something did.

I emailed it to the elder, as he’d requested to hear from us in the church, but I asked him not to include it in the general discussion because I was so shy of it.

It was a mighty-big verse to me, and I was shy to have it connected as my heart-prayer. Especially in the context of it being “this year’s” verse. It was much easier to say, This is near my heart. I trust telling you, but please don’t extend it farther, or I’ll feel a need to be explaining myself.

And I just don’t like the idea that I have to explain my affinity to, or delight in, a verse of scripture.

Yes, after all that I’ll say what it was. Continue reading »

Comfort

A couple months ago I had a friend getting ready to move away.
I was not prepared for her departure to knock the wind out of me like it did.
Three different people asked me if I was okay. (I must have looked a wreck.)
I said No, each time, and felt loved like I hadn’t in a long time.

I felt seen.

Each listened to me in turn, absorbing my sound bite and offering what comfort they could (it wasn’t nothing).

And the third woman paused with me. Shared her heart with me.
Gave me a chance to get past my pain, to see her struggle.
To share her burden as I looked for a place to lay mine.

These multiple offerings of compassion struck me as a great contrast to the women who could skewer my heart without knowing it, either by their words or by their silence.

And I prayed I would have eyes to be that one who could see.

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own” or real life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life– the life God is sending one, day by day.”

C.S. Lewis

 

Did you know Sinning is Not a Requirement?

“We’re not called sinners because we sin,” my dad says. “We sin because we’re sinners.”

Behavior grows out of  identity, you see. (Another reason to drop “cheat” from your HEP vocabulary.)

This definition is important because those of us who’ve “put on Christ” and the new life he offers us– we have a new identity.

Image courtesy of Simon Jackson via stock.xchng

We’re not sinners any more.

Charles Swindoll in his book The Grace Awakening, Urges Believers to look hard at Romans 6, and makes a challenging observation:

Most Christians have been better trained to expect and handle their sin than to expect  and enjoy their freedom. The shame and self-imposed guilt this brings is enormous, to say nothing of the “I’m defeated” message it reinforces.

Are you ready for a maverick thought? Once we truely grasp the freedom grace brings, we can spend lengthy periods of our lives wihtou sinning or feeling ashamed. Yes, we can! And why not? Why should sin gain the mastery over us? Who says we cannot help but yield to it? How unbiblical!

You see, most of us are so programmed to sin that we wait for it to happen. …

You have not been programmed to yield yourself unto God as those who have power over sin.

That new power– rooted in our new identity–  is a LOT of what Romans 6 talks about:

  • How can we who died to sin still live in it?
  • Our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin
  • You too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  • Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires (The new identity means we have the choice to obey where previously we had no choice)
  • For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace. (Glorious promise!)
  • Having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.

These words give me a hope I don’t remember ever basking in this much: We speak of being slaves to sin, the compulsion and the helplessness we were locked into in our lost state.

Now we (who are redeemed) find ourselves slaves to righteousness.

A new identity and a new servitude.

Sin is no longer the Default Mode.

This is a Big Deal because I don’t think I’ve lived this way on-purpose. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at Sin as completely optional.

Then Sunday (I’d been swimming in these ideas since Saturday, the day before) the man bringing the massage wrapped up with 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.

When I am watching a mystery or one of my body-a-week shows, I pay attention to the way things are said more than I do in real life.

For one thing, every speaker’s words were chosen by a writer, and I can guess that any hints I pick up on are probably real and not just in my own head.

One thing about every good mystery is that the answer is always on the table.

It might be concealed or misrepresented, but it’s there. When the answer is revealed the audience can see how clever everything was (or wasn’t) and know the truth from all angles.

 

Image courtesy of tatlin via Stock.xchng

In a similar way, when I go into my life and its demands (and temptations to sin) it makes a tremendous difference to me whether I’ll have to swim on my own, or if I’ve got a rope to hold onto.

God has promised a way of escape.

The answer is on the table.

How encouraging is that?!

So much of my anxiety comes from a sense of feeling trapped. Of being out of options.

And when I’m stressed I am more likely to sin with my mouth.

What a relief to hear I am not bound to this!

He will provide a way of escape.

The Purpose of Emotions

Image courtesy of Bobbi Dombrowski via stock.xchng

Two summers ago, I remember pacing the lawn at the old house while talking on the phone (I still don’t know how to be still when I speak on the phone).

I described to my dear friend (in our “stolen moments” after bedtime) how novel writing seem especially necessary or missed in that season, because I felt such a flurry and burying depth of feeling that it took 16 characters to bleed the emotion down to a manageable level.

(All of this punctuated by the emotion thickening my voice as I tried to discuss the topic.)

I was embarrassed by the emotion. I couldn’t think what the point was other than to give evidence to my weakness, and my head wasn’t currently on straight enough to back up and start from basic principles:

Unless this was the result of the Fall (when Sin entered into the world) there must be some original purpose for these frustrating feelings.

This friend was raised on the F side of the F — T spectrum, and she still doesn’t seem to understand my mistrust of the F side of things. So I suppose this comes down to a cultural expression. All I know is that when it comes down to downs, “people” mistrust expressions of emotion the way men mistrust women’s periods. It’s mystical, inexplicable, and the deepest proof of it’s power it the continued impossibility of eliminating it.

Lo and Behold, I finally heard an authoritative voice posit a reason for these pesky little elephants of distraction.

Emotions are radar.

They’re your warning system.

Are you becoming angry? Look around. Who’s crossing a line?

Are you sad? Is there some loss you need to acknowledge and grieve?

Are you zipping with delight? Enjoy it! Share it!

This last isn’t the one we usually wrestle with.

Have you ever heard someone complain about feeling so good they just wish it would stop?

No.

We sometimes know what to do with the positive emotions, even if they’re not any more “understandable” than the rest.

And here I think is where we might try to nail the jello-y question of value in emotions.

Thinking, reasoning, cognitively working things out, gives us an action point.

We leave the mental exercise with something to DO, or at least begin to understand.

Emotions are Raw.  Not just exposed and nebulous; they must be processed before they may become overtly useful.

And most people (in my experience) either don’t know how to do the work, or are not interested in the work. Continue reading »