There are emotions that don’t require any space in order to be expressed or experienced. Fear, for example. You don’t need anyone to back up for you to experience that emotion. Anxiety too. You can have people pressing in all sides, life tugging on your sleeve and anxiety is totally at home.
But there are other emotions that need a little space in order to emerge: grief, true joy, intimacy. Honestly, most of the deeper emotions don’t come when you call. They like to have a little room to breathe before they will surface. They need space.
Space on the calendar.
You can’t schedule grief any more than you can schedule intimacy or deep joy. We can try. All across the country churches are trying to do this today: now this will be the activity or the moment when I give them a few minutes to do business with God. You can give people moments to make note of things they need to grieve, you can schedule for yourself a block of time in which to make a list of things you need to talk to God about, but know that addressing the true ‘business’ things tenda not to work on a schedule.
Once upon a time, my counselor forced me to stop making evening plans for a few weeks. I was free to engage in whatever I wanted to, but making plans in advance was sabotaging my ability to process the things I needed to. Turns out, if you have an event on the calendar, even if you schedule for yourself a few hour buffer, trying to process something before is tough. The deepest emotions know that they aren’t free to come out when you’re just going to have to put them right back in the box.
Intimacy with Jesus is the same way. It won’t be scheduled. You would never expect to sit down with someone and tell them – you’ve got 30 minutes to tell me who you are and what you are passionate about right now so that I can feel deeply connected with you. Intimacy doesn’t work like that. But we do that with God all the time and then wonder why we don’t treasure Him the way we might want.
If you struggle with this, maybe take a look at the week ahead and ask yourself if you can find one or two days where you can commit to not make any plans in advance in order to create spaces for the feelings that require a little more space in the schedule to surface.
I’m always in awe of people who think that they can be around people in most of their waking hours and still have deep intimacy with Jesus. There are some things that – quite honestly – He needs to say to you alone. There is a depth of emotion and intimacy that doesn’t come out to play in public.
Grief is the perfect example of this. Grieving with people is an essential part of the process, but anyone who has experienced loss knows there is a unique element of grief that you face when you are alone.
Being alone can be hard. It forces some of us to face that we don’t know who we are without the constant feedback loop others provide. It forces some of us to face that we have a panic of missing out, or boredom or being alone. Within a few minutes of solitude we have to text a friend or check Facebook.
If you struggle with this one, try spending some time alone! Turn off your phone, disconnect from the internet and just wait. Maybe nothing comes, but you’ll never know until you push past the point of fear of being alone.
You need space where other worries can back up just a little. Where you can get away from the pushes and pulls of all that you have to do and be to make others happy, to make yourself happy. Space to just BE.
I know this sounds like a very postmodern thing, but for these deeper connections and emotions to be experienced, you need space free of judgement. You need space to feel without suppression and to just accept your emotions. Space to say – yes. I do feel happy. I do feel sad. I do feel angry. This isn’t about affirming all the assertions your emotions may make or the actions they make you want to take – but it does mean you get to say – it is true. It is true that this is how I feel. Whether I want it to be, whether others want it to be true – it is. This is me. Where I am today.
There has to be a space in your life where you can come as you and everyone – yourself included – can give the real version of you a little space to just be before all the judgments and fixing kicks in.
If you struggle with this, practice a time each day where you make a list of all the feelings you might have felt the previous day. No need to form any conclusions about them, just practice naming and accepting the reality that you felt them.
- What are the things in your life that you haven’t processed fully because you don’t have space?
- Which one of these three spaces is it most natural for you to fight for? Which one is it hardest for you to pursue?
- What would it look like this week to fight for all three?