I’ve been struggling with feelings that are hard for most of the past week. Feelings that create an empty pit in my stomach. Feelings that have me hovering on the brink of tears most of the time. Feelings that leave me asking, ‘why not?’, and ‘how will I ever?’ and ‘what if?’. Feelings that make me feel bad for being such a failure as a Christian, as a saved and redeemed child of God.
And of course with the feelings comes the temptation to act upon them. Whether it’s to let the anger out at someone, or give up trying to do the things I know I should, or to collapse in a puddle of tears, the temptations are pretty strong.
And then I feel badly that I want to do all these things that I know are not good for me or for anyone else.
Yesterday, in the midst of all these feelings, I dropped one of my children to a summer camp which takes place in a boarding school, and as we walked round the building I read some of the school notices which were still up on the walls.
‘You cannot be held responsible for your feelings, but you can and will be held fully responsible for your actions.’
Whoa . It stopped me in my thoughts right that moment. I don’t think it was accidental that I saw it.
It reminded me of a truth I needed to remember.
Feelings happen. They show up. We don’t always invite them in (although sometimes we do encourage them to stay).
I am not judged by God, nor should I judge myself, on my feelings.
My actions, those I do have control over.
I realised once again, as I was driving away from that school, that I may spend every day of the rest of my life feeling some of the feelings that are so painful and difficult. They may never change. And that’s ok. That doesn’t mean that I’m a failure or not trying hard enough or that I should quit following God.
It just means that I’m a person who feels things.
It also means that I may spend every day of the rest of my life choosing not to act on those feelings, and that feels like quite a big ask right now, and I really wonder if I can do it. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.
This morning I went to a communion service and the first song we sang (quite badly – it all felt very homespun and crumbling, and not in any way shiny or smooth this morning) was Matt Redman’s ‘Once Again’, about the sacrifice Jesus made for us when he was crucified.
It contains the lines,
‘And once again I look upon the cross where you died.
I’m humbled by your mercy and I’m broken inside.
Once again I thank you
Once again I pour out my life.’
When I’ve sung that song in the past I’ve always thought of ‘pour out my life’ meaning I’ll live for God. I’ll not be selfish in the way I live. I’ll serve as He wants me to.
But today I thought about when I pour things out of a cup or a bottle, it’s often the remnants of a drink, or some once cold water which has now warmed up, or the dregs of the soft drink before refilling the glass with wine. It’s pouring out something which is no good, something that no one wants anymore, in order to leave the glass empty to be filled with something good.
So maybe the pouring out God wants me to do, is the emptying out of the dregs of my life, the feelings that bring pain and emptiness and longing. Maybe I need to daily spill out those things on the ground before God, and ask Him to refill me with the good stuff.
That would mean that I don’t need to pretend the feelings aren’t there. I don’t need to try to ignore them, or squash them down. In fact I need to do the opposite and pour them out into the open in front of God who already knows, and then let the emptiness be filled by Him.
At the end of the communion service (during which the preacher had said in reference to our sinfulness ‘we all slip up from time to time’ and I was like, ‘not me. I live in a permanent state of sinfulness’) I whispered my prayer to God.
‘God I am crap.’
And without pause the response came back,
‘Yes, but I love you.’
Today I am linking with #givemegrace