Monday, April 11, 2016

Flexing My Emotional Muscles

My feelings surface naturally, regularly, and under my skin. I am beginning to take notice.

A month ago I observed a tightness in my chest and furrowing of the brow whenever I scrolled through Instagram. There was a particular person whose posts unnerved me. My physiological symptoms signaled envy (although, my body acts similarly at FaceSwap.)

I was following a friend who constantly captured ministry moments. His images were underscored with exuberant captions. Likes and comments abounded under each one. My ministry felt small in comparison. Note: I was the one making comparisons, not him; and making comparisons is surely a greater sin than celebrating God at work!

So what if this only got 7 likes. I ate Hatian cake!
More recently someone questioned an idea from one of my sermons. He told me he would have nuanced the thought differently. Again, my brow furrowed. I felt my head cock back, like a rooster ready to unleash a deadly assault. This was another emotional signal: defensiveness. I'm guilty as charged, and more often than I'd like to admit. But why?

This growing sensitivity to my emotional life stems from a few factors. The recent, roller coaster ride of international adoption has taken me and my wife on some steep ups and downs (and transatlantic flights). Expanding our family in this intensive way has forced me to look at family dynamics, both my family of origin and the current mix of me-plus-three-women-and-a-golden-doodle. The estrogen imbalance is pronounced.

Moreover, my reading diet from the past few months has heightened my emotional sensitivities. These works include several spiritual formation titles and The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazerro. (I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tickled when he responded to my Tweet yesterday.) So far, in three of the book's evaluations, I score somewhere between emotional adolescent and grandfather of healthy feelings.

Finally, I spent a few weeks thinking through "big feelings" for a sermon on Christian Hope amid... you guessed it, Big Feelings. I compared my ministry path my charming but emotionally explosive nephew (age 3), as well as the irritable prophet Jonah. A counselor from our church provided both clinical and spiritual insights during the message. We both agreed the Bible is no stranger to big feelings. Fortunately, God's abounding compassion is greater than our anxiety, anger, envy, depression and outbursts of hilarious denial.

I have enjoyed flexing my emotional muscles. Since feelings are God-given, they should not be ignored, but nurtured. In fact, after finishing this post, I may treat myself to a hearty cry.

1 comment:

Heidi Kantenwein said...

I just read that book for class! The questionnaire is helpful : )