When feelings teach us facts, facts can teach us feelings.
Here it is late November, and I am just sending my first shout out all month. Due to the oh so humbling feedback I get from dear brothers and sisters who tell me that these weekly nuggets of encouragement are things they look for and enjoy very much, one might think I should apologize for my lateness. Knowing my audience, I am not even tempted to. Doing so would fracture the bond we have as Believers walking through a dark world, together, in compassion, and in solidarity. When I am weak, you are strong. In sharing here, perhaps you will connect with this and be encouraged. In my present state, this is what I feel called to do.
It's a snowy, blustery day here in Vermont. I am sitting at my desk looking out the window at a biting wind snapping off the weaker twigs of the leafless trees which have surrendered to a winter season. That resonates with me, body, mind, and spirit, since a significant source of the warmth that my life orbited around for the past 22 years has departed. With our prayers and blessing, our children have both left the nest. My older son moved to Australia, and my younger son left for Marine Corps Boot Camp. It was sudden and blunt, and each departure was within several weeks of the other. The ax of time caught up with our lives.
I could pretend that I stood in stoic sacrifice as one son boarded a plane to another continent, and the other son was given over to a government who now owns him. But I didn't. I collapsed in melancholic loss and nostalgia for days after I walked away from the recruiter's office on ship day. That final hug leaving my youngest child to be thrust into the extreme demands of not only becoming a man but becoming a United States Marine, felt like giving in to everything my biological urges and impulses have been trained by love to avoid for 19 precious years.
I went home to a silence that was the loudest thing I have ever heard.
How could the reality of no more physical contact with my sons feel so smothering? So THIS is what so many parents go through when they say "empty nest syndrome" is real and it strikes you down. I get that now. To add to that, while I can speak to my older on the phone, my younger is off the grid, and I cannot speak to him until the end of January. And Marine Boot Camp is HARD. There is then the matter of the years ahead, of him being gone and us not knowing from year to year where. He will return a different person in many ways. It feels like an obstacle course I am just starting.
Ah, to be human, as I was designed. In being that vessel of emotions, choices, whims, and desperate needs I stand with so many other parents who have suffered this necessary phase of the life cycle. There is no getting around it. Our children become adults. They have to leave. They have to do hard things. In fact, they have to do impossible things, and explore who they are against different backdrops and in harsh settings, without me. It's time.
Do I trust God? I am "a woman of faith," after all. I travel the country teaching people about the Torah and God's love and faithfulness. So, as I lie on the floor sobbing in brokenness, am I still that woman who believes that all works toward to good for me?
YES. I do. I trust. I believe. But I also writhe in agony. Did you know that these two realities are not mutually exclusive?
I am missing the life I have become attached to for so long. I am no longer near the two forces on this planet that not only taught me who I was before God and man, but in who's eyes I found purpose and identity. That hurts. These are powerful feelings, woven into my being by God, Who desired my husband and me to invest our hearts into these young men without reservation. We did that. We loved them well. We still do. And as brutal as it sounds, now the bill has come due. We live in a fallen world, and we must face now, the tears that will be wiped away another day.
There is a price we pay for love. I am starting to see that this payment reflects millions of moments of joy, concern, hope, prayers, observations, planning, trying, failing, and facing the unknown with those two precious creations of God who had become my heart living outside my body. It's real, and it's happening. Now.
There is comfort in knowing that these feelings are facts, despite much of the church having largely demonized feelings by misunderstanding their purpose and what the Bible teaches about the heart and emotions. The Messiah wept. God grieves. This is not because their feelings were/are not pointedly sad. They were/are, and BY DESIGN TO BE SO. This intentional status of vulnerability creates the opportunity for authentic relationships, and there is no other way to experience that but for the opportunity of the pain of loss. With that comes the joy of birth, reuniting, and reconciliation. It is how it is, and that is that.
It is a fact and a feeling that I love my sons. The fact that this has rocked my world so violently affirms that these feelings are real, and not just some distraction from God's will. This time of weeping is a sacred process, and not one I will take for granted, dismiss, or avoid. The issue is, how do we deal with this pain? How do we cope with these feelings? This could apply to any grieving processes anyone goes through. Pain is pain. I think of parents who have lost their precious children whether young or older to death. As I faced the deafening quiet in my home, my heart started to ache for those who have suffered the final loss, which is a step beyond what I have had to face in these last, tearful days. I pray for them the provision of a comfort that I dare say, has to be miraculous.
Behaviors that are governed by unresolved feelings is another story, and that is what the Bible warns us about when we are to question our heart and how it can deceive us. Our heart is more than our feelings. Our feelings can be more than our hearts.
There is no getting out; there is only getting through.
When you are rejoicing, I am rejoicing with you. When you weep, I weep with you. If you are "meh" I can relate to that too. We grow into seasons, and then watch that season change into another, that feels different, looks different, and comes with a new set of challenges and delights. Feelings are a part of that process. They are our teachers in many ways. Don't be afraid of your feelings, but don't let them convince your mind to invent Godless coping strategies either. God is our strategy.
Identify what you feel, discover why you feel it, and don't let tactics from your injured intellect direct you on how to cover them up with false solutions. Instead, start speaking the truth into your life that God tells us. It will be okay. He will sustain you. Life is in Him for you. You are loved. You can do this because He makes you strong. He makes you brave. Then, step forward into your life and walk on.
The answer is not elusive. The answer is Him. He has got some mighty shoulders upon which to carry you and your burdens. He promises.
The light has peeked in. At least I am looking out the window again. I know more now. I have a journey still to go in this season, but I can see some of the purpose and a piece of the plan. I can see the feelings and the facts...and it is all connected. No categories exist in the walk of Holiness. It's all part of the whole.
What a blessing that we can get through together. I'll hold up your arms when you waver, and you can hold up mine. And we shall pray for one another, as this is what we call brotherly love. No judgment. No telling anyone what they should feel or being competitive with our suffering. We live in the now and embrace the present. Emotion has much to teach us as this is a tool God has implemented in this dark world to show us the way to Him, and who we are in Him, and with Him.
Whatever you are walking through, have walked through, or will walk through, find the core circle of God's people you trust and walk on, however you show up, but be authentic. No one can create a testimony in their lives. Testimonies are God's business, and He is brilliant at it, so we let Him write the story. His version will far surpass the one you have imagined. Go into a fellowship community where you are welcomed just as you are, and be welcoming to others without agenda.
Bring your brokenness to God and receive His love. It's right there. This is how we love God in our totality, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Be strong. Be Broken. (But I repeat myself.)