I had a professor in college who would dish out his wise one-liners on daily basis. Sometimes it felt as though he had a life altering quote for us every five minutes! Each quote was as great as the next, all equally deserving of a mic drop. The diligent note takers in the room couldn’t keep up with his effortless wisdom. Though I probably heard over a hundred of his one liners, there was one that stuck to me more than any other.
“Feel what you feel when you feel it.”
Haven’t you ever had that voice run through your head saying, “this isn’t worth getting upset about; this doesn’t matter”? But the truth is if you are having a reaction to something, it does matter. That sinking feeling where your throat drops into your gut, the butterflies in your belly, the intense rage brewing below the surface, or the cringe that comes when you’re about to shed some tears. Whatever “it” is matters.
"Feel what you feel WHEN you feel it."
Though I first heard this phrase in my college classroom, I didn’t begin to put it into practice until a few years after college. I can remember moments of being frustrated with friends, family, coworkers, and even myself. In this emotionally crowded season, a bathroom stall was my only means of escape. It was often the only accessible place where I felt safe enough to break away from my day and allow whatever was brewing in my soul to surface. The tears would come, but to my surprise so would the ability to move on. Tears alone didn’t do the trick. I needed to surrender the moment to Jesus, and I needed to make the choice to move on.
Timing was everything. If I didn't catch my emotional stirring within the hour and take five minutes to let it drain, it would come back days later with a vengeance. And if I didn't set a timer on those little breaks, those emotions would rule me for hours. However, simply breaking away from my day with a five-minute timer, giving space for whatever emotions to emerge, and then choosing to go on with my life became a great tactic in my days.
"Feel WHAT you feel when you feel it."
Now, I must admit that when I first heard this phrase, I spent most of my time trying NOT to feel. I was also quite good at it. However, what I learned in this season, was that I wasn't meant to live with walls up. I found the harsh truth that while I spent so much time trying to protect myself from “bad” feelings, I was also keeping out the “good” feelings and the potential for good things to come my way in life.
So, I began to let whatever feelings come: anger, sadness, joy, bitterness, despair, contentment, forgiveness, confidence. And with this, I learned not to judge my first reaction; but rather to filter it. Just because a "bad" feeling may come, doesn't mean we shouldn't feel it. However, we should filter our feelings and not let them lead us.
"Feel what you feel when you feel it."
The greatest part of all of this? It’s not nearly as bad as you think it might be. I have found that while I am feeling the hurt in the presence of God, I begin to also feel the healing. It is the perfect picture of being beautifully broken. It’s messy; it’s risky; but it’s wonderful. So don't let pain build up; let it drain as it comes.
It mattered. It matters. You matter. Your emotions are a gift, not the enemy. They are gifts to your heart to signal what is important to your unique soul. Embrace them as they come in the comfort and safety of Jesus.
Now say it with me...
"Feel what you feel when you feel it"
Jen is a pastor, worship leader, writer, and songwriter living in Napa, California.