I am lonely...
I love you, O Lord...
My eyes grow weak with sorrow...
Shame has covered my face...
You have put joy in my heart...
I am afflicted and in pain...
My God, why have you forsaken me?
I trust in you…
-Just a few statements from the Psalms. There are hundreds more like it.
I am a child of the 90s, unashamedly. And I love music. And thanks to Columbia House offering 12 cds for only 1 cent in 1994, at about 12 years old, I also loved Mariah Carey. I mean, was there a preteen boy at the time that didn't? But that’s not the point. The second album of Mariah’s that I scored for less than a penny was called Emotions, named after the first song.
You’ve got me feeling emotions
deeper than I’ve ever dreamed of
You’ve got me feeling emotions
higher than the heavens above
It’s a love song, sure. But it’s been running through my head for a few days. Why? Because man, people are feeling some emotions lately. That’s what COVID-19 has done to us. It’s got us feeling emotions.
Pete Scazzero, probably the most influential contemporary voice in the Christian movement toward emotional maturity suggests that many who call themselves mature Christians are actually closer to adolescents, emotionally speaking.
They’ve been around God for much of their lives, but they still have no clue how to identify, express, and handle their emotions. Why is that? Humans are brilliant at lacking self-awareness. We are experts at distraction, at busyness and at discomfort avoidance. Our schedules or our insistence that everything is fine removes our felt need to identify emotions, welcome them, bring them to God, and become fully formed disciples.
Well, friends- now is your chance.
Some of you are becoming in touch with your emotions because you can only distract yourself for so long. Netflix starts to lose its luster after the 17th night of watching. Some of you are becoming in touch with your emotions because you are out all day in the middle of a world in crisis, and the weight of everything is more than you can handle and there is no longer any way to avoid the truth. Some of you are becoming in touch with your emotions because you are stuck at home with people who don’t always bring out the best in you, and all this stuff that is inside is starting to boil over and there’s no way to stop it.
And some of you are becoming in touch with your emotions because you can no longer act like everything is fine in the world. Things are screeching to a halt and all this self sufficiency malarkey is getting exposed. We are all connected, and life is different than anything most of us have ever experienced.
Yeah, that’s gonna get us feeling emotions. For some of us…. deeper than we’ve ever dreamed of.
Maybe that’s why we’re seeing so much original music being created and shared on social media right now to inspire us. We feel the need to give space to our emotions and our longings. It’s more than just entertainment. We need to express our feelings. And on a side note, let us not forget when this is over, that many of us turned to the "non-essential" realms of art (music, drama, writing) in order to help us get through this season. When we’re in a crisis, we often turn to the artists, because they give embodiment to the emotions we need to express. Keep that in mind.
So we do the same with David, the songwriter and the psalmwriter. We let his words be ours to express our cries, our struggles, our fears, our joys, and our longings.
The Bible is nothing if not an invitation to get our emotions out and offer them to God.
I so appreciated the conversation that author and pastoral giant Eugene Peterson had with U2’s Bono a few years back about the Psalms. Peterson spoke of his time translating the Psalms from Hebrew to English, and noticing something as he was going through it.
“They’re not pretty,” he said. “They’re not….nice. But they’re honest…and I think what we’re trying for is honesty, here.”
“Brutally honest” is the phrase Bono would later use to talk about how David voices his feelings before God. What freedom that gives us.
Jesus continues the same spirit of invitation, asking us to bring our weariness and honesty to him, promising to give us rest. God’s people should share that characteristic, making it safe for one another to share where they are angry, frustrated, empty, or hopeful. In my digital meal community meetup this week, several people shared that they are actually really joyful these days and the time has been good for them, but they almost didn’t share because they didn’t want to minimize the struggle of others. That sensitivity is admirable. Yet both perspectives are necessary for honest community to happen, and for real growth to occur with Jesus.
Today's encouragement is simple. Take time to do an emotional inventory for a few minutes. Welcome whatever emotions come to the surface, and offer them to God. Let Jesus speak peace and love and grace into them. And maybe share them with someone else you love, knowing that you are not weaker for acknowledging the swells of today’s surging waves. Perhaps you even need to write your own song. Or Psalm. Or both.
Jesus, lead me to new levels of honesty with You and others today. Speak into my reality.