"In all true discipleship, and in the true spiritual development of each disciple, there is first the wonder and the joy of first acquaintance, then comes the long plain stretch of lesson-learning and discipline....
Joy is of two kinds. The Joy born of Love and Wonder, and the Joy born of Love and Knowledge, and between the experience of the two Joys lie discipline, disappointment, almost disillusion.
But combat these in My Strength, persevere in obeying My Will, accept My discipline, and the second Joy will follow.
And of this second Joy it was that I said, 'Your joy no man taketh from you.'
Do not regret the first, the second is the greater gift."
"Joy is a state of being; not an emotion." My therapist's words shocked me. I guess deep in my brain I knew that I had heard this before. But at the moment, it shocked me. "Happiness is the emotion that comes when things seem 'perfect' in an imperfect world. Happiness comes and goes. But joy is the solid hope that has the ability to keep you going."
I was not sure I was even going to make it to my therapist's house in one piece today. She seemed like a life-line that was slowly drifting away from me--that I would miss if I didn't grab it quickly enough.
Before getting to her, there was a litany of "religious" commands running through my head:
"Just let your emotions go--lay them down to God."
"You need God not a therapist."
"You are running away from God."
"Just go back to God."
"Give up your control."
I just wanted the world to stop moving for a bit. I wanted everything to become calm and silent.
So I could figure out what was wrong with me.
I shared my screaming emotions with my therapist.
And the horrible numbness.
I think the numbness is the worst.
Someone asked me why I don't just go back to that.
Numbing and avoiding everything.
It is tempting--believe me.
But it feels so fake.
I have numbed and forsaken and layed aside my emotions for 18 years.
I am not doing it any more.
They are mine. As painful as they are--I feel they are something that is genuinely mine for the first time.
And yet these emotions are terrifying.
They are powerful.
I feel alive finally.
But they are also addicting.
That is what my therapist said.
She said more, too. But instead of trying to quote her, I am going to give my own synopsis:
I have spent much of my life ignoring my emotions and creating a false identity with which to function "perfectly" in this painful and stressful world. When Christ pulled out that core shame of the abuse victim, this false identity was torn down in the process. So I was left without an identity (so it felt) and extremely empty. God finally did something with this emptiness last week. He poured emotions into me--He poured my emotions into me. Only He poured the yucky emotions that I have been avoiding all of these years. This is where I sit today.
And where do I go from here? Forward. However, my therapist warned me of the temptation to stay moving forward in the addictiveness of my powerful, dramatic emotions, rather than moving foward in Christ. Because my emotions will run the show if I allow them to, and I will lose many things in the process (relationships, my ability to function well, God's greater purpose for my life...).
"But, how do I lay down my emotions?" I asked desperately.
"You need to own them first, Jaime. You are not ready to lay down your emotions, because you have not owned them yet. Only once you accept them as your own can you offer them to God. And you will know when you are ready. Because you will be sick of your own shit. When you are sick of your own shit, you will lay them down. But not before then."
"But, what if I get addicted to them? What if I won't want to lay them down?"
"Oh, you will lay them down. I know you too well. You will lay them down."
My therapist told me to keep focusing on Christ rather than on my emotions or problems.
"Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:1-3)
"let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.'" (Heb. 12:1a-6).
"You are being disciplined, Jaime. But remember, God suffered first. He created Adam and Eve knowing they would reject Him. He leads the way in suffering. And Christianity is the only religion with a suffering Savior."
"The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you." (Deut. 7:22) God knew that my emotions would overwhelm me if He gave them to me right away. But He has now given them to me--there is no doubt about that. However, as the presenter said to me last weekend, "God must think you are strong enough to deal with the emotions now."
Am I really strong enough, God?
Once again, I must choose to trust that God knows what He is doing. And I must choose to follow in His path of suffering--believing that He will guide me through it. And on the other side I will understand. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Cor. 13:12)
Keep moving forward, Jaime. Keep getting up. Keep focusing on Christ. Keep feeling your feelings, but don't focus on them--focus on Christ. Seek to understand what your feeling are telling you about wants, needs, attacks--but don't let them define you. Differentiate between your emotions and your identity. Keep walking. On the other side will be the Joy of Love and Knowledge--a Joy held in both your head and your heart.
P.S. I looked up the definition for "disillusion" on Merriam-Webster: "to cause to lose naive faith and trust." I think I can genuinely say, "Amen," to that.