Let's grow healthy emotions.

When I reread my oft-borrowed copy of Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy in May, I knew something needed to change.

I texted a friend and told her it was time to get emotionally healthy. The idea of seeing a counselor suddenly thrilled me. It just seemed right. That was a pretty big dream, as I had been unemployed for five months at that point and was currently saving cash for deodorant. I asked God to provide and moved on.

For months leading up to that, I felt stuck. angry. grieved. insecure. confused. pressured. lonely. embarrassed. defeated. These were constant feelings.

As spring concluded, I noticed how week after week, my prayers and journal entries resembled each other. The theme of desperation was cyclical in nature, echoing through every line and every plea. Looking at those emotions lumped together seemed colossal, but I was exhausted from pretending they didn't all exist.

I felt like a fake.

It's extremely uncomfortable to say, but I think I desired a self-made, reputable image more than I desired to be transformed by the Spirit of God. Have you been there before? Running on months (years, even) of being more concerned in setting a "good example" than addressing what's gone awry inside? 

Some have reminded me that as a believer, I need to count my blessings, to simply know I am loved, and to think of the hurting world beyond myself. You can imagine the shame, then, when counting or knowing or thinking in such godly ways felt contrived.

In conversations, it was always the same deal in my head—

Hurry up and hold it together, Erika.
Share just enough, but keep the rest to yourself.
Finish it off with, "but God is good."
Then at least they know you still love and trust Him.

It turns out, those mantras were causing a wedge in closeness with not only people, but the Lord.

After a physically terrible week in June, I scratched out these thoughts: "He deserves my highest praise and all the honor I could offer. But what if I'm actually doing Him a disservice as I say fluffy things rather than approaching Him with honesty, love, and pain? It just makes you stop and wonder. I mean, He's certainly not shocked by the stuff of our lives, and He knows most that we are human."

Eight or so days later, my first counseling appointment was scheduled. God had remembered my cry! A Saturday mail delivery brought money enveloped by a generous friend—the provision I prayed for. I could buy deodorant and I could go to counseling. There was more than enough.

If emotions are a garden, mine was overgrown, wilted, and furnished with weeds. I had no idea how much shame, negativity, and hurt had amassed until I had more emotional triggers than I knew what to do with. But now, just a few short months later, I am telling you the breaking and the pruning aren't so scary.

I am no expert, of course. You will find God is tending to me even now, doing work that is surely supernatural. Yet it is a hard, humbling process. It is neither airy nor romantic. But necessary for life. I am learning to weed out the lies I found comfortable to sit in. With dirt slipping under my fingernails, I dig and make room for healthier seeds. And then?

I grieve. I surrender. I trust. I show up the next day. God brings the healing, the strength, the redemption, the growth. I have been declaring through my days Psalm 28:7, 

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him."

Friends, sometimes, we might know truths about God, but there can be a discrepancy between what our hearts consider as true. We don't have to pat God on the back. He doesn't need reassuring that we're sticking around and not abandoning the faith. Sometimes, there is painful questioning. Sometimes, people will be shocked by your confessions.

But sometimes, there will be a person who will look at you with peace in their eyes, whispering, "let's take shame off the table now." And they will reflect the heart of our Wonderful Counselor, Jesus, so well.

You, too, can taste the rich soil of mercy and grace again.

healthy emotions