Darkness often feels like a finished product. The dark presents itself in whatever form and it is finished, I slap on a label of doubt, fear, anger, judgement, selfish and so on, and the label impedes my ability to move forward and allow what lives in the dark to be an invitation to depths of good. In a moralistic and legalistic system of thinking, the words and feelings of darkness are labeled as bad and are to be finished. All thinking, all movement, stops with the label. The self imposed judgement on the source of the feelings of doubt, worry, fear, shame and the like, build a very thick wall which keeps the feeling from living its way into the discovery of good.
I’ve learned in my own journey that nearly every emotion, every feeling is clue. Feelings are meant to be felt, to be lived into, to be given permission to breathe and when allowed to do their work, feelings can lead one on a mission of discovery. That discovery, often reframes our beliefs about the emotions felt.
At one point in my story I would see doubt as bad. I’d shame myself for having feelings of doubt, for good Christian girls don’t doubt!, and I’d stuff the doubt away and be left with shame and a muffled doubt. It was the same for feelings of fear, worry, condemnation, despair, judgement and pride. These emotional experiences were labeled as sinful, not right, ungodly thinking and therefore they had no place in me. I snuffed them out at first sight and I’d hold only to the shame that was left as a residue from my felt emotion.
As a part of allowing myself to experience pain, I’ve lived into a journey of a great unlearning these past years, this past year in particular. And one of the greatest un-learnings and re-learnings has been that the felt darkness of unpleasant feelings, thoughts and emotions are not endings filled with shame and condemnation, instead they are invitations. Invitations in the dark. My unlearning has led to a great discovery. I’ve listed a few of the invitations I’ve been given as I’ve stepped into difficult emotions and feelings of my life’s experience:
doubt is an invitation to trust
fear is an invitation to courage
worry is an invitation to peace
condemnation is an invitation to grace
despair is an invitation to hope
loneliness an invitation to intimacy
need is an invitation to community
judgement is an invitation to discernment
shame is an invitation to vulnerability
pride is an invitation to humility
pain is an invitation to healing
impossible is an invitation to the miraculous
anger is an invitation to compassion
death is an invitation to life
sorrow is an invitation to joy
In my education through pain, I’ve come to know that I am continually being invited. Jesus invites. He doesn’t shame or judge or point fingers or hold back. He, in his humanity, experienced anger, sorrow, and need. He even, had a plea that in some ways could have felt like doubt, “take this cup from me!” He didn’t end there, for he continued on to say, “not my will but yours.” His statement of belief came after he allowed his plea to be made.
Life is full of feelings and emotions and I’m continuing to learn that they are not bad and good, but they simply are. Feelings and emotions lead us to greater depths of understanding, knowledge and life. Their presence or absence do not evidence greater or lesser levels of faith and trust in Jesus. They are not a litmus test for determining the faith of one who believes. They simply are. And, I’m slowly but surely coming to a place of belief that God, who is good, gave us feelings and emotions, of all kinds, to invite us to greater intimacy with him.
I will continue to stumble my way through the dark and I believe God, who continually moves towards his creation with love, is present in there. He meets me with invitations of light as I seem to transformed by His presence in the dark.