Last night, I was awake too long.
I saw midnight….1am…2am… until I finally turned on a baking show on Netflix so I could shut down my mind long enough to roll over onto my right side and fall asleep.
I considered staying up all night, wrestling like Jacob, praying through my pain, but I remembered my morning glory children and Dax’s 8am dentist appointment—and stubbornly drew a boundary line on my fretting.
I could probably employ some great word-smithing here to paint a dramatic picture of the emotional vortex I was working through, but honestly, there’s just no value in it. After a long while, maturity has taught me to put all the frayed pieces of “miscellaneous angst” in the Jesus fridge until He pulls them out and shows me their origin, flavor and purpose.
We women like to dive into the details of the feelings, but let’s avoid that particular ditch, shall we? There is a higher thing to see here.
I laid there, knowing I was stranded between too much caffeine, too many unchallenged vain imaginations, too much winter and a little too much loneliness. I knew I could awaken Nick and he would listen, but I just couldn’t make myself nudge him. He’s always available, but if he woke me from a dead sleep to talk about his feelings, I would probably (definitely) slug him. It only feels right to respect his sleep accordingly.
So I laid there, swirling.
I prayed and I slowed my mind down as much as I could manage. I took inventory and sorted, piece by piece, all the different fragments inside, knowing the truth of Jesus in each place would establish peace. I turned my heart toward difficult relationships and opened myself to thinking past what was obvious or convenient. I shut down every lie I found. I got a midnight text from a night-owl friend and opened my heart just enough so she could see a glimpse and be in prayer with me.
But I was tired, and the climb was uphill. So like I said, eventually, I ended the spin with an iron-fisted distraction, and fell asleep.
And when I woke this morning–for the first thirty seconds–I felt clear. My rested morning mind felt foolish to have spiraled so sloppily in the dark. I chuckled, bemused and relieved to leave the fuss as memory. But within moments, all the storm came spinning back and I felt my heart sink.
I fought tears for the next two hours, in pain and exhausted from the battle within. Eventually I overcame, and gained enough perspective to dismiss the storm.
Upon reflection tonight, I was reminded of the weekend. Our family was in the van together and Nick was talking with the children about life skills that take a lot of focus and failure to develop, but eventually we can do them without really even thinking about it.
Example: walking. He told them how they had been as toddlers, with their pudgy, faltering steps and frequent bottom-down thuds. But do you think about walking now, or do you just do it? he asked them. We just do it, they replied.
I thought of the storm I had so recently walked through, and I marveled.
I don’t have nearly as many of these emotional storms as I used to. There was a time when I was volatile and easily tossed around by my emotions. Several years ago the Father planted me deep in a place designed to challenge and call up my identity, forging my sonship from theory to reality. And that process triggered what was easily thousands of blinding blizzards of emotions and struggle. Back then I had countless nights in front of this computer screen, weeping and writing and feeling, without any sense of what was real, what was imagined, what had to go, and what could stay.
Truthfully, I didn’t know up from down for years. Had I not been well-loved, I never would have persevered.
Disciplining my emotions in those days was a deeply difficult skill to learn. Especially for myself as a woman. I needed to harness the emotions that would sabotage my identity without deadening the instincts that empowered my femininity.
I needed a real knowledge of my Father that superseded anything I felt, so that His actual Personhood–His real voice–could instruct my heart clearly and powerfully in the middle of opposing evidence.
I needed to be able to feel and yet unwaveringly trust, so that my faithfulness and unity would never be vulnerable to my pain.
I needed to be my Father’s daughter when I didn’t feel like it.
It has taken experiencing and then rightly leading my emotions–every emotion–for a long time. It took a lot of silence, submitting to the fire of letting all of it get rearranged and challenged. It took wanting to be free more than I wanted to be validated. Honestly, it sucked.
But I looked and saw that I didn’t plunk down on my toddler backside this time.
But last night. Shouldn’t I have been able to shut down the storm and skillfully walk on top of it? Should I have been able to show up in my heart and tell it to be still? Should I have been able to do that faster?
Yep. Sure. That would have been good.
But I couldn’t, at least not right away. It was a big twisted mess, and I’m still growing. And that’s OK. I’ll get more chances to get stronger, to grow in the elegant grace of a unfretful daughter. But I’m choosing to celebrate the areas of victory, because there were some:
- I did not send fretful, dramatic texts that inflated my emotions, nor did I try to rationalize or spiritualize my emotions into something holy or intercessory, when they were not.
- I did not let them keep me awake all night, draining energy from the next day.
- I did not have any self-righteous conversations with people who were not in the room, projecting them as villains and myself as a victim.
- I did not fight by flesh, neither with control mechanisms nor by temper tantrum.
These are all things I have done so often, in the past, the panicked survival strategies of a heart afraid to break. Habits that broke when Love healed my fear.
I realize this might sound like a weird victory lap, but here’s what I think is important to remember, because we are all growing:
I think it’s important to see these times well. To celebrate the wins, to embrace the growing pains, and to humble ourselves to where we still have so much room to grow. If I don’t look well at the things He walks with me through, I’ll miss realizing how big His grace was. I’ll overlook the marvel of Him, and the unique, personal way He walks with me.
This isn’t just about knowing the Father, in theory. It’s about building something with Him that is unique to me, that capitalizes on every imagination He has of us together. It’s about becoming a powerful and personal manifestation of Who I have experienced He really is.
When we see well, we become so consumed with His goodness. We heal deeply. Our hearts worship and marvel and grow. We get bold and our faith increases.
We stand higher, we see further, and we do not fall down as quickly. We have wins to celebrate. We write a testimony. We write a victory story that can be offered as hope for those still learning to overcome.
I don’t care if it takes me five minutes or five days or five weeks or five years to finally find my feet on top of the waves. Every inch of that climb taught me about His heart and showed me the progress we’re making together.
Anything that serves to show Me His face has my attention, my fascination, and my joy.