Life, in my estimation, would be easier without emotions. Straightforward. Matter of fact. Rational. Full of sense.
Emotions, on the other hand, can be messy. Convoluted. Nebulous. And, worst of all, pervasive. Emotions seep out from under a paper thin mask of control, unsummoned and unwanted, leaking into every corner of consciousness. This assault of feelings spares nothing on its way to total domination of your every known faculty. Before you know it, you're a goner. Your voice catches in your throat. Your eyes blink in vain to prevent an onset of unwelcome tears. Every reasonable thought in your mind is chased away, replaced by a powerless mantra: "Do NOT cry. Do NOT cry. Do NOT cry!!!"
Oh, were you about to say something meaningful to contribute to this conversation you cared much about? Sorry. Your emotions just took over and your words have been swallowed up in sobs. Every available Kleenex package in the room is making its way over to you, along with sympathetic glances and maternal pats on your back, "There, there."
Hello. My name is Jill and I am an emotional being. Ok, ok, I'm an emotional girl. And I love/hate emotions.
I am often tempted to dismiss feelings altogether, to quash them. I am inclined to distrust emotions as capricious and vague -- to view them skeptically and to value them little. I can even become prideful in my aversion to emotion: "Look at how precise, logical, and strategic I am in my thought process and decision-making! What's the matter with those poor emotional slobs over there who can't hold it together?"
I grew up believing that crying was for the weak, a signal of defeat. Therefore, to constrain emotion was to have a measure of control. Perhaps I could make myself impervious to hurt by never allowing myself to reveal if I was. Better to appear indifferent than wounded. Somehow I thought partitioning away emotion and maintaining a semblance of composure at all costs made me less vulnerable.
Of course, appearance is rarely reality.
Last week, one of my roommates and I were talking about how our conversions to faith in Jesus Christ changed everything for us in the way of emotions. This past New Year's Day, we sat at the same table, listening to a man who had traveled the sky over oceans to tell those of us in that room a simple message. "Thank you," he said, "Thank you for faithfully sending Canadians to bring the gospel to my country."
Game over. I glanced over at my roommate and, like me, her eyes had begun that rapid blinking to no avail. I handed over some Kleenex.
I remember a night in August nearly 12 years ago. I had used Kazaa to download a Christian song I had heard earlier that evening. Less than a year prior, I had wanted nothing to do with church or Christians. When my sister became a Christian, I mocked her and ridiculed her faith. But there I was in front of my computer, listening to this song and mulling over all that I had experienced of genuine Christianity in the past year. I could no longer write off these Christians as just delusional hypocrites. I couldn't pretend like there wasn't this gaping desire in my heart to know this Jesus whom they loved and worshiped. And somehow, amid the music and my thoughts, God graciously intervened and, in the words of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. A heart that was finally alive to the certainty of God's extravagant love demonstrated on the cross where Jesus died for my sins and awake to the reality of God's very presence with me forever.
And while sitting there, in front of the computer, I wept.
But it was the good kind of crying.