There are many words that could be used to accurately describe me, but stoic would never be one. What I feel, I feel deeply. I am moved by music, movies, nature, others’ suffering and words, yet I am most intensely affected by conflict and pain, the people I love and God’s redemptive work in me. I have never made it through telling my entire testimony without tears. I’m unapologetic about all these deep feels because I know in part it is how God made me. I also know it can also be my greatest source of internal stress- trying to maintain a stable center when tidal waves of emotion threaten to overwhelm me. It also reveals weaknesses in me that leave me feeling vulnerable and exposed as the wave subsides. I do not always feel so much, but when I do, it is big.
In my years counseling women, to my relief, I have discovered I am not alone. I was completely surprised to find that so many women have a similar experience of finding that sometimes feelings will erupt within them like a volcano or wash over them like a wave- painful, scary and intense. The other commonality we deep feelers share is becoming isolated to manage shame that sneaks in after such a moment. We don’t usually like how we feel about ourselves in those times and we rarely want to invite another person in to see us so openly. So, just like in the very beginning in the garden, we hide.
My 30’s were a beautiful journey into seeing myself with the grace God filters me through. I began talking more about my deep and painful feelings with Him when they hit and I slowly began to piece together two truths: I do not have to be afraid of my feelings and I will do much better if I let safe people in to support me. As I quit feeling so crazy about being a deep feeler, I began to see some strength in the way God made me. I love down to my core. I hate being disconnected relationally which can (after years of dealing with people pleasing and codependency) push me to confront problems and seek out reconciliation. I am passionate about helping people heal. Those are the upsides. The downsides are obvious- it hurts to feel deep pain every time a relationship goes through conflict. It is hard to not believe the lies that intense feelings bring: “you are alone”, “you are not loved”, “this will never get better”. But the best defense is a strong offense- I need truth as a solid platform to stand on when I hear those lies. And the best gift of my 30’s were women and a husband who speak truth and quiet my heart.
I know now that there are no feelings which God cannot bend under the weight of His love into something He will use. As I have watched Him change my life and remake my heart, I have noticed my tidal waves are less frequent, but no less intense. Instead of believing lies, I pick up my phone and send one of two texts to my closest friends-“I am not okay right now” or “pray for me because I am struggling to believe truth”. I get through my overwhelming moments by listening to what they say back and feeling cared for. And by recognizing God loves me in my messiest most emotional moments as much as He does in my nailing it, totally together moments. He quite literally allowed Himself to be overwhelmed by darkness and death in my place, but He rose up to show me it has no power over me anymore. A dark moment may come, but because of Christ it will also go. One day, everything painful and intense will be overwhelmed by light. Until then, I humbly accept truth and love to hold me up.