A moment of transparency at the outset of this aspect of freedom: I’ve always been sort of uncomfortable with emotions. (Most women seem to be super familiar and comfortable with themselves in this area, so I feel like a fish out water here.)
In first grade, I knew a girl who would cry over anything. When she dissolved into tears on the playground because she couldn’t climb the ramp really fast, I would raise an eyebrow in bewilderment and go play on the monkey bars. My family lovingly nicknamed me Iron Eyes later on because while they would all be blubbering at some sad movie, I would be giggling at them. Emotions have just never been a part of myself that I’ve accepted in a mature way. So pretty much everything I share on this topic will be theoretical—I’m sure it would work if I tried it. (Yes, I have some growing to do.)
Psalm 139 reveals that God pieced us together individually before we were born, and that we were wonderfully made. This includes our emotional makeup—it too was wonderfully created. So if Christ came to set us free, that includes every area of our lives and identities, including our emotions. As much as I would prefer it, this freedom doesn’t mean growing up out of emotive expression; on the contrary, it means growing up into healthy emotive expression. Now, given, there is a right time and place to vent the negative emotions we experience (not on facebook and not every single time you see someone), but it’s good to feel a wide range of emotions, not just the good ones. Here’s a thought-provoking paragraph by Emily Freeman on how paying attention to what brings up emotional responses in ourselves can be really helpful:
“Maybe our tears are tiny messengers, secret keepers of the most vulnerable kind, sent to deliver a most important message—Here is where your heart beats strong. Here is a hint to your design, sent to remind you of those things that make you come alive. These tears carry the gift of your desire. Change in the world comes when we acknowledge what moves us and why. What else in all of creation can shed tears? Listen to what makes you cry.”
Emotional freedom is neither being stoic, never giving in to the hard responses (Iron Eyes, reporting for duty), nor being a walking tear duct who can’t turn off the waterworks. It’s finding a healthy balance of acknowledging every emotion you feel but submitting all of it to Christ. He is not an aloof God who cares nothing about what we feel: just spend a few minutes in the book of Psalms! The authors were all over the board emotionally while bringing their lives to the Lord. We are not to be ruled by our feelings, but God created us to experience life deeply, and that involves allowing ourselves to feel deeply. To wrap up, here are some questions to get you thinking:
- Do you personally experience and acknowledge a wide range of emotions (e.g., affection, anger, anguish, apathy, awe, boredom, confidence, contentment, courage, curiosity, desire, disappointment, disgust, distrust, dread, ecstasy, embarrassment, excitement, frustration, gratitude, grief, happiness, hope, horror, hurt, interest, joy, loneliness, love, outrage, pity, remorse, sadness, satisfaction, shock, shyness, trust, wonder, zeal)?
- Would others around you say you are ruled by your emotions? (If you don’t know, find someone safe and ask.)
- Do you typically express your emotions in a healthy and appropriate way?
- Which emotions, if any, do you tend to fixate on personally? (At the end of half an hour of letting your mind wander, would you end up worried, content, full of regret, excited, or something else?)
- How could you move closer to Jesus in an emotionally expressive way?
For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.