Life is like a journey by boat in the middle of a vast ocean.
But we all know the truth.
The same waves that not too long ago were gentle and friendly become infuriating monsters shaking our vessel and threatening to smash it into pieces. We survive, although sometimes we can’t help feeling like one massive storm has aged us overnight. We journey on and hope against hope that somewhere up ahead, the peaceful moments will revisit us.
Preparing to write for The Pearl Press’ anniversary month, I have tapped into a more reflective side of myself. Life is a journey, and what a year it has been! We have journeyed through a lot with The Pearl Press and, if I’m completely honest with myself, I have journeyed through a lot personally as well in the course of just one year.
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure a life? (The song from the Broadway musical, Rent, helps with the math.)
One of the biggest lessons that I have learned over the course of this year is how to deal with my emotions. I like learning more about myself - my personality, my strengths, my weaknesses, and how I’m uniquely created. For those of you who are familiar with the Myers Briggs type indicator, I am an ENTJ. Some assume that when you prefer to rationally and logically view the world, emotions are nonexistent.
It’s safe to say that I have emotions, loads of them. I have learned over the course of this year that my default is to hide my emotions and sweep them aside. I often feel like showing them would be a weakness or, mostly, I just don’t know what to do with them. I keep my feelings bottled up and marked “to visit later” until the bottle bursts and I find myself in a crisis of some sort trying to dramatically pick up the pieces of my shattered existence. (I do have some drama queen tendencies.) Thus, I started a journey to figure out how my emotions fit into my journey.
Emotions, our ability to feel, is a gift from God. However, I’ve experienced that emotions are very interesting. While I usually lean towards the thought that feelings aren’t important at all and I need to not feel a certain way, others think that all that matters is how we feel. Either way, it seems to be that our lives become absorbed with our emotions, whether we spend our time doing what we feel or we spend our time hiding what we feel.
People describe emotions like a rollercoaster ride; we go from high to low and then we loop around quickly until we’re at a point where we limp around looking for a garbage bin. For me, it’s that boat again, tossed by the waves in a storm; one day the ocean is calm and peaceful, the next day it’s stormy and vicious. Our emotions are often unreliable. They change often, not so unlike a certain Katy Perry song. Certain circumstances bring out different emotions and, if left unchecked, we make life decisions based on our fleeting feelings. What kind of life will we live if we are focused and making decisions based on something that is unreliable and always changing?
Emotions that are left unchecked open us up to the possibility of being manipulated - by ourselves, by others, and by the devil. In Proverbs 25:28, it says, “Like an open city with no defenses is the man with no check on his feelings” (NAB). So, how can we be aware and alert as to how different things are trying to manipulate our feelings?
Nearly a year ago, The Pearl Press did a blog series called Rooted. I simply loved the series. The series looked at Ephesians 4 and how we are to be grounded in Christ so that we’re not “tossed back and forth by the waves.” Upon reflecting more on this idea of being rooted, I realized that often times we get tossed back and forth by the waves, and it all starts with our emotions. We might be upset at something or someone, we might be frustrated at ourselves or at God, we might be going in a spiral of depression. When we go through tough times and we experience the emotions that come with the situations, the image of a boat tossed back and forth by the waves seems like an appropriate metaphor.
Speaking truth into our lives.
That’s where we can begin.
In the midst of a huge storm, the crew of a huge vessel will often times start to face it by throwing unnecessary stuff overboard. In the story of the prophet Jonah, the crew of that ship had thrown everything they could possibly throw overboard. In storms, some people tie themselves to the ship so they won’t get thrown overboard. I learned a couple of things from this. When we are in the middle of the ocean that is our emotions and chaotic things in our lives, when it’s dark and stormy; we should prioritize what’s important--what is necessary-- and tightly attach ourselves to an unchangeable object.
Take an inventory of your life. What’s important? What is necessary? What can you do without? Are there negative relationships that are bringing you down or exacerbating the already bad situation? Are there lies that you have bought into that have taken a semi-permanent dwelling in your life? Are there other things that aren’t necessarily bad, but you’ve been focused on more than you’ve been focusing on Christ?
Cling to the unchangeable truth of an unchangeable God. As Ephesians 4:15 describes, be connected to Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He’s the one that can make sense of the chaos that is in your life and in your heart. The only one who can help you make your way through the hurricane of your emotions. He is the God who calms storms. When we cling to Christ and the truth that is in His Word, we are able to see His power that remains always over the storms in our lives.
This year, I have learned a lot about actually dealing with my emotions and choosing, every time I deal with negative thoughts and feelings, to proclaim God’s truth over my life. The storms are calmed and my emotions no longer bottled up and ignored. And then I look up, and in amazement declare, ”What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:27).
Sisters, in the storms and even in the calm of your journey, hide His Word in your heart. Cling to the steadfastness of God’s unchanging love and His grace and His truth. No matter what our journey may look like, there is Peace to be found.
Even in--especially in-- the storms.