Feelings are such annoying little buggers. I get caught up in them all the time. And every. single. time I’m caught off guard when my feelings change. I’m so easily impacted by external events, which is where I’ve been today.
I started out this morning on an emotional high that began yesterday morning at church. Oh I had such a marvelous day yesterday. By the time I got to church yesterday evening I was jacked up on Jesus joy, bouncing off the walls, and it hadn’t abated by the time I got home last night. Woke up this morning just raring to go…which is totally unlike me. (I’m not a morning person…not at all.) I had a beautiful prayer time which ran a little long, had to cut short my bible study so I could get started with work (I work from home). I shared with God as I was fixing cup# 2 of coffee that I would really like for Him to work it out so I could have all the time I wanted to pray and study in the mornings before I had to start work, but make it so that I didn’t have to give up any of my evening hours to make up for the morning hours, and not have to get up in the middle of the night…
It would be nice, wouldn’t it? Sigh…
Then I got started at work. Isn’t it annoying how people can bring you down? I felt my joy dissipating like air leaking out of a balloon. One of those pinhole leaks that make the squeaky sound. That was me. I found myself resentful, grumpy, frustrated, and impatient. The problem is, I can’t afford to let those feelings get the best of me. For me those feelings march in a straight line to anger. My temper is fierce, and losing my grip on it is when I end up saying or doing something that I regret.
I’ve actually just sat here and shared with my Father that I don’t know if I can write this post. I’m afraid I’m not “fixed” yet. I still have a problem with anger. It may be easier for me to recognize the signs, and certainly easier for the Holy Spirit to calm me, to refocus my attention on Him, but I fear the unhealthy expression is still there. It’s something I’m ashamed of.
I have been mean in certain circumstances. Sometimes the mean comes out and I’m totally blown away because there’s no reason for it, nothing I can directly tie to it to have caused it. It occurred to me one day that when my anger comes out that way there has to be something under it. There has to be an underlying cause.
When my rock-bottom day came, the anger I had stuffed down inside, alternately brooded over and ignored, was unleashed and spewed all over everyone in my vicinity. Oh I said some ugly things that day. I scared my grandson. I spoke incredibly harshly to my son-in-law. Those two things I still feel shame over. I’ve never spoken harshly to my son-in-law. He’s such a kind man. I’ve always tried to build him up, encourage him. Not that day. And the fact that I scared my grandson breaks my heart. It’s hard for children to get past things like that. It sticks in their minds. No, I wasn’t angry at him, but I was angry and out of control near him, around him. And that lingers.
I have brought this issue to my Father many times. It’s one of the things where I can’t seem to get a handle on it. I want it to go away. I want it to be fixed. I don’t want to have to deal with this anymore. I want Him to fix it. Wave His magic wand and make it disappear. But He doesn’t work that way, does He?
I watched a message by Chip Ingram recently on Overcoming Emotions that Destroy – Part 1 Rage – Understanding the Monster Within. In the video he talked about the ways we express our anger. He went through a series of “diagnostic” questions to help us discover if we were a Spewer, a Stuffer or a Leaker. I found out I have characteristics of all three, but primarily I’m a Stuffer. He went through a list of about 10 things and I checked off on all but maybe one of them. Briefly, a Stuffer is someone who, when asked if they’re mad, denies it. We ignore it, deny it, shield it, deflect it, pretend it’s not there, avoid it, bury it. We don’t say what we really mean for fear of making someone else mad, yet we hold the other person responsible because they didn’t read our minds. We’re resentful. Unassertive. We internalize our emotions, we don’t let them out. Until they’re too big to contain. Until something small uncaps the well and unleashes a geyser – and then we Spew. Often, our Spewing finds its target in someone who had nothing to do with the original anger.
And that’s me. That’s who I am. But it’s not who I have to stay. It’s not who Jesus made me to be. It’s not who He wants me to be. I know that there are still some lingering underlying issues that He is touching one by one and untangling. His work is not finished yet, but I’m so thankful that it’s His work, and He is faithful to complete it.
The feelings I was dealing with at work today didn’t do that straight march to anger. I reached out to my mother and mentor and her advice (boiled down to the main point) was to take it to Jesus. That sounds like such a cliché, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s been used as something of a cop-out. I’m sure there are some well-meaning but maybe inattentive folks who have said something like that to you without stopping to find out if you already have or not, or if there is anything concrete and actionable they can do. (To be clear, that was not the case today…I was genuinely asking what am I supposed to do with this frustration, and her response was much longer and more involved and held a great deal of good advice. The bottom line was take it to Jesus.)
The thing is, that is the immediate action to take. It’s the first thing we should do. Unfortunately it’s often the last thing we actually want to do. It can be hard and I think there’s a couple of reasons. The first is that while anger itself is not a sin, in its unhealthy expression it gives an opening to the Enemy. In Ephesians, Paul says for us to “be angry, and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” I know this for a fact: that’s exactly what happens with unhealthy expression or handling of anger, as I have so often given place to the devil and let him run me down the wrong path with it.
The second is that we find it difficult to be honest with Jesus about our deepest stuff. Our yuck. Our ugliness. We would rather clean it up first and then present Him with it. Like, “look what I did!” We sanitize it. We pretty it up and bring it in prayer and wonder why nothing ever changes.
I wrote about this in a previous post (Let There Be Truth) and it’s what I did today. I took it to Jesus. Not what I “should” feel, not what I wanted to feel, but what I actually felt. The resentment I felt, the frustration, that I didn’t like this, it wasn’t right. I poured it out to Him. It wasn’t a “magic fix.” He didn’t take it away the feelings, but He helped me deal with them. I don’t know yet how He would have me deal with the situation itself.
I remembered hearing another speaker talk about how the Holy Spirit coached her to remember that God is good, and specifically God is good to her, even in the midst of a horrible situation. That’s what ran through my mind today. God is still good. This may be annoying, it may be frustrating, it may have caused me to come down off my emotional high, but God is still good. I still have my Jesus. I still have His love, His affection for me. I still have His approval. I still have Him. And today, I have His victory over this circumstance that could have derailed me.
I don’t know what God wants to teach me through this circumstance. I pray that I can listen, that I can lean into Him, that I can let Him teach me what He wants me to learn. I don’t want to be a Stuffer anymore. I don’t want to let my emotions control me. I want Him to control me. I belong to Him and I want Him to use me however He sees fit, because I know that it will bring about my good and His glory. I trust Him. Even with my Stuffing.