battling “the feels”

Posted: March 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

Feelings don’t get to be in charge.  <–This concept has been a life-saver for me as I’ve begun to grasp it over the years.  When feelings, whether “good” or “bad” in nature, get to run the show, pain and consequences tend to follow.  As a culture, we tend to look to feelings as our guide, but that was never their real purpose.  Feelings are a helpful barometer to show us things about ourselves – to help us know where we need to grow, where we need to “die to self,” where we need to let go of expectations that come cruising in to ruin relationships.  Feelings are a tool, not the goal, and certainly they are not wisdom.

In small matters, it can be pretty easy to live by this truth.  We do well to practice hard on the small matters, so that we build the “muscle” of it, and are prepared to do likewise when the bigger stuff comes up.  Over the last few years, I have been doing just that, and watching with wonder as it works.  My life works so much better in the areas where feelings aren’t driving me (though I can’t pretend that I have it mastered across the board).

Recently I bumped into a bigger challenge on this front.  I’ve been putting my head down and walking on through, since that’s a thing I know to do.  Choose, and choose, and choose some more, and don’t let the feelings run the show.  It gets grueling as it stretches on.  I found myself fatigued to the point of tears over breakfast.  G had a word of scripture for me over breakfast and it didn’t help – it sounded like the opposite of what I needed, and it landed on me like a ton of bricks.  I knew that meant I was probably misinterpreting what God was saying to me through that scripture, but I couldn’t access a more helpful perspective on it.  Sadness wrapped itself around me all day.  I held my ground stubbornly, working to quiet all the unhelpful inner voices and listen for God.

I’ve consistently found Him ready to talk to me when I’m really ready to listen – the kind of listening that is, “I will do anything, ANYTHING You ask.  I’m ready.  Help me to hear You!”

The trail of breadcrumbs guiding me back along the path toward home started with a reminder in a book I was reading on spiritual armor, reminding me that scripture is a sword and it stabs the enemy of us all, shutting him down.  Oh, yeah.  Don’t just grind through the hardship.  SPEAK the Word.  Meditate on it.  Let it do its perfect work in me and also its deadly work on what comes against me.

I came home from work to a gorgeous sunshiny day.  I remembered telling someone I love that “sunshine is medicine;” I changed into old clothes and went out for a big dose of that medicine, working in our yard.  This also gave me a break from the screens that I stare into most of my waking hours – always a sure way to help clear the mind.

While I worked, of course I listened to a podcast – one of my very favorites, called “Death, Sex, and Money.”  It was an episode called “Why Jeb Corliss Jumps Off Cliffs.”   It was a fascinating piece, and what shouted to me from it was how grim a perspective can get when “feelings don’t get to be in charge” is your principle with no God in the mix.  I was deeply sad for the guy – and his mom – by the time the interview ended.  Another bread crumb.  Don’t just follow the principle.  It’s good, but it’s not enough on its own.  Not even close.

After supper I went where I’d been called to all day, digging into scripture.  The reason I had resisted doing so, I realized, was that the only scriptures that came to mind on the subject that was leading my feelings into the dark zone were ones that seemed to push me in an unhelpful direction – stuff that my codependent self can consistently interpret in unhelpful, unhealthy ways.  Digging around, I discovered something – there ARE scriptures that speak to the other side of my particular dilemma.  There are strong, clear directives that help in an area where I have historically been weak and still struggle, despite much healing and growth:  boundaries.  I wonder whether those of us who lean toward codependency ever really become 100% comfortable with boundaries, or if that will just be a place I’ll have to be intentional for the rest of my days on this planet.

The reason those intensely helpful scriptures hadn’t come to mind for me?  They are in my least favorite book of the Bible:  Proverbs.  I’ve never liked the proverbs, for a list of reasons there is no point in sharing here, since any place where I disagree with God, I am by default mistaken.  When I bump into my dislike of that book, I always remind myself that here is an area that I need renewed in my mind.  But really, I’ve not taken the one step that might help in that renewal:  I haven’t spent serious time soaking up what is written there.  That, I learned, is to my detriment:  there are handy tools in there that could have been helping me all along the way, and I had so neglected them that the specific scriptures in question were almost new information to me.

Isn’t God good, that He waits so patiently while we persist in stubbornness?

Isn’t He kind, that He speaks when we’re ready to listen, no matter how long we’ve refused to do so?

Isn’t He merciful, that He doesn’t just decide our chances have expired and we can just stay miserable forever?

Isn’t He wise, that He speaks consistently to “both sides” of issues and not just one?

Just a brief bit of time meditating on those scriptures pulled me up out of “the feels.”  The weariness and related confusion dropped away.  Peace that had been beyond my reach returned.

I’ll be pressing in to the Proverbs now – I wonder what else is in there that I’ve been missing in my resistance.

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