As I stood in line with approximately 7 bagillion of my fellow Americans on Election Day, I was feeling super uneasy. I found a friend in the crowd, and we mulled over the current status of our country and the Church.
I was “getting out to vote” for the first time in a while (please don’t tell Joel’s aunt, the election commissioner!). I felt like I needed to explain my lack of initiative to the registration lady who handed me the sticker I felt unworthy to wear.
Even though (cringe), I knew whom I was voting for, I completely panicked the minute I realized I had to vote for local candidates too. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to research local issues. It was November’s version of the recurring dream where you oversleep for the exam, and you look down and have no clothes on. I checked a few boxes for people I knew and left the rest empty— on matters I am SURE will weigh heavily for my future grandchildren.
My face was getting really hot so I quickly clicked VOTE, turned to leave and then immediately BURST into tears. I was sad for my country and that these were the only viable options for President. I felt guilty and irresponsible for not doing more to make a difference. Inflated view of self much?
I could not for the life of me control my tears. Heavy, hot ones kept coming as I exited the polling place and walked down the middle of two really long lines of people waiting to vote. A coworker saw me, and with wide-eyes asked, “Kitty, are you okay?” All I could get out over my snorting and snotting was that I was really sad for my country. I’m semi-laughing at the scene as I rehearse it in my mind now.
I got in my car, still caught off guard by my seemingly ridiculous tears, and tried to remember the last time I had cried. I couldn’t remember. Maybe sometime back in the Summer? I tucked the episode away to think about during carpool or maybe after the kids were in bed that night.
There were a few more episodes of unexplainable and randomly-explosive tears. It felt bizarre really. I know it’s wise to listen to my tears. I regularly tell college girls, “Our emotions are like the emergency lights on the dashboard of your car, signaling it’s time to CHECK UNDER THE HOOD to see what’s really going on.” I just hadn’t done that for myself in a while.
It’s easy to help others and accidentally ignore your own soul. Isn’t it? My tears told me that God was quietly breaking through into my reality. I left no space to process these tears, so my soul grew disconnected and distant. For a few months, I lost touch with my inner world.
There was the ever-shortening fuse with my kids. The fantasy of getting the flu so I could opt out of life and sleep for a few days. There was the lack of desire to read my Bible. There were the impulsive Amazon purchases rooted in hopes that maybe reading ONE.MORE.BOOK would be the answer to my physical exhaustion and internal frustration. There were disappointments with friends and ministry.
After the final blow of a challenging disappointment, I felt stuck and traumatized enough to shoot an email to a favorite spiritual director/counselor friend begging her to meet me for lunch when we would be traveling through her area. She graciously said yes.
I made bullet-point lists in my journal of things that were draining me and the rotten fruit that I could see hanging on the limbs of my life. I asked Joel and close friends what they saw in me that was “off”, and I climbed into her Forerunner to head to lunch.
She wouldn’t let me ask all my favorite, “What’s going on with you?” type questions. All she said was, “Okay, so you seem depleted, maybe even dangerously tired.” Her simple presence made me feel safe and known enough to shut up and start talking all at once. Her gentle questions and long, holy listening opened honest spaces in my heart. It was over lunch with a friend and the best turkey melt and marinated cucumbers I’ve ever tasted that I started to feel my soul fully connected for the first time in several months.
I told her I have been overly responsible for wearing other people’s emotions. I confessed that the jobs of mothering and ministering felt all-consuming. My ideals were crushing and my to-do lists had grown to be unreasonably long. I told her I felt like every day I emptied my tank and it was never enough.
She asked, “What drives you?”
I said, “Fear.” (Fear my kids won’t turn out to be Jesus-loving, functioning adults–so I try to control their lives and therefore am always frustrated with them and myself. Fear I’m not doing enough with the girls I am discipling so I live in guilt and performance. Etc. Etc.)
She asked me, “Do you really believe you are loved?”
I said, “I really do, but that reality is not motivating my daily life. I am being driven by fear vs. led by love.”
She prayerfully listened and committed to the process of seeing this ball of yarn continue to unravel.
The unraveling has looked like admitting to myself and others that my life has become unmanageable. It’s meant embracing and even celebrating my limitations (i.e. not overbooking my weekly work schedule, making sure I’m daily drinking enough water, and getting to exercise, creating space to keep the Sabbath Day holy–which, for me, includes things like church, a nap, chocolate, yoga, a Dr. Teals baths, being outside, playing with the dog and scheduling earlier bedtimes for all.)
These are things that have served me well through this season. These are the practices that have connected me again to my soul. It’s required me to rework and rethink my commitments, goals and ideals, remembering that my Savior is not a task-master, but a gentle and kind Shepherd. It’s meant claiming my identity as a loved daughter and a sojourner here in the world.
In my 20’s I cared what others thought of me. In my 30’s I have subconsciously focused more on what I think of me. But connecting deeply with Jesus means caring primarily about what He thinks of me and that was made clear on the cross. My inbox, smartphone and laundry pile do not rule me. Nor does the plentiful harvest of ministry. I am a citizen of Heaven. My Father is the King and I live for His approval, not my own.
Thank you Jesus for emotions that help us realize what’s going on in our soul because in the hustle of life, it’s all too easy to be driven by fear rather than led by love.