Control: 1. To master. 2. To hold in, hold back or keep in line. 3. To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over something.
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart….for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
You know it’s going to be a
good book life changing book when the opening sentence screams out to be highlighted and underlined!
“Emotions aren’t bad.”
One sentence. Three words. Yet it says so much. Emotions are not bad.
One sentence and all my beliefs and pre-conceived ideas are turned upside down!
One sentence and I’m already thinking about what is coming next. What sentence will scream out at me in Chapter 2? In Chapter 3? In Chapter 12?
Growing up I was always being told “you’ve got to learn to control your emotions”.
Control them. Curb them. Restrain them. Keep them in check. Hold them in.
The words might have been different but the message was the same.
Stop. Being. So. Emotional.
So I grew up believing emotions must be bad.
I have a memory of being about 15 years old and standing on a stairwell at school while my Year 10 Geography teacher publicly berated me for my lack of control over my emotions. This teacher pulled me aside and ridiculed me for my “rollercoaster-like” emotional outbursts. I still distinctly remember her telling me that until (unless) I learned how to control my emotions, they would always control me. I remember the shame of standing there that day. I remember the tears I cried. I remember the burden I took on.
I didn’t hear “control your emotions”. I heard: “You will always be this way.”
What I believed was “I’ll probably always be controlled by these raw emotions. I’ll never be able to change.”
I’ve just turned 42 and I can assure you that whilst I have tried over the years to “control” my emotions, the truth is, my emotions, at times, still control me.
I feel angry.
I feel sad.
I feel hurt.
I feel frustrated.
I feel stressed.
I feel worried.
I feel excited.
I feel guilt.
I feel disappointment.
I feel joy.
I feel shame.
I feel love.
I wear my heart on my sleeve. When I’m having an emotional moment, chances are, if you’re somewhere nearby, you’ll know about it!
Therefore I can totally relate to what Lysa TerKeurst says in her book, Unglued. “I know what it’s like to praise God one minute and scream and yell at my children with my next breath”.
In fact, it happened to me this morning! On the first day of our study of this book!
We had a very powerful service at my church (Planetshakers) this morning and I was quite emotional. Tears flowed freely as I stood at the altar and thanked God for His mercy and love. I left the service drying my eyes with my heart full and my emotions high.
And I was greeted by three hungry teenagers. My sons. Bickering amongst themselves and shoving and pushing each other around. In the foyer at church!
So I did what I do so well. I became unglued. I yelled at them and told them they were “stupid” and “annoying” and I think I may have said something along the lines of “you boys are getting up my nose!” And then I stomped off to the car. And cried again. This time tears of embarrassment and shame at my behaviour.
And that’s all it took to reinforce my beliefs that emotions are bad and must somehow be controlled. And I remembered being that 15 year old girl who thought: “I’ll probably always be controlled by these raw emotions. I’ll never be able to change.”
So for years I tried to stuff my emotions down and now, the first sentence in the first chapter tells me that emotions aren’t bad!
In Unglued, Lysa tells me that God gave me these emotions! He gave me emotions so that I can ‘feel’ and connect with people. He gave me emotions so that I can experience life in its fullest.
So now I have hope. Hope that, with God’s help, I don’t have to try to control my emotions any more. I can be me. And ‘me’ is emotional!
The key is that whilst it’s ok for me to be emotional, it’s not ok for me to become totally unglued and spew out raw emotions like sewerage on those that I love. Raw emotions threaten to destroy the relationships I’ve taken so long to cultivate. These sorts of emotions are not what God wants me to experience.
And He has also given me hope in something Lysa calls “imperfect progress”.
Imperfect progress means that I don’t have to become perfectly glued together in one day.
Imperfect progress is slow, step-by-baby-step progress towards real change.
Another word for imperfect progress is grace. And that’s something I’m going to be keeping in mind as I start this journey of making my emotions work with me and for me, not against me. Grace, grace, grace.
He said to me, “My grace (my favor, loving-kindness and mercy) is sufficient enough for you. It is all you need. For my strength and power is made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and shows itself most effective in your weakness.” Therefore now I am going to boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power can work through me and rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)