“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Romans 12:2″
As Forrest Gump says “Life is like a box of chocolates”. I love this saying and it rings true but I contend that my life is like a pot of spaghetti sauce. Sometimes it smells so good and it seems like I have it spiced just right and other times it boils over making a fragrant but spicy Italian mess. My life, like my spaghetti sauce, has gotten better and more flavorful over time and it seems as long as I keep the essential key ingredients it always comes out pretty tasty. Let’s face it though … no one likes to walk into the kitchen and see their beautiful sauce bubbling over and making a mess.
Emotions are the same … no one likes those feelings as we sense them rise up from our bellies, you know what I am talking about … anger, despair, jealousy, anxiety, fear. I don’t want to feel that way. But the truth of the matter is I do.
Most of my life I remember growing up with this notion to be ‘true to yourself’. ‘You can’t help how you feel.’ ‘Express yourself.’ Although it is true emotions should not be stuffed or swept under a rug, the older and a little bit wiser me has come to learn, they do come and go. Feelings can be fleeting and certainly are not always reliable. They can come on strong like a hard crashing wave or they can simmer like that pot of spaghetti sauce until one day it’s a hot, bubbling mess. But feelings can be nice too, the ones we all like … happiness, comfort, joy. Like warm sunshine on my skin , these are the ones I love to hang out with.
All these feelings are part of the human experience. Even “bad” feelings can be good in their own right. They can help me sense danger, encourage me to make a change, and help me to clean up toxic patterns. Us women especially know how freeing a good cry can be. Truth be known, my good feelings might not be so good , if I didn’t experience the bad ones too. I’d probably get complacent, bored, and not grow or stretch myself. I am learning to accept that my feelings are a very part of how God designed me and that they are nothing to be ashamed of but instead a useful tool in my walk through this life.
The problem comes when I let my emotions control me. When I don’t deal with my anger or hurt. When I let these feelings become the captain of my ship as they sail me into stormy seas. When I become the simmering then boiling pot of spaghetti sauce. This creates destruction within me and around me.
According to Anne Voskamp, “The best way to fight an emotion is with an emotion”. That is quite a simple yet brilliant statement. For example, it’s difficult to feel angry and grateful at the same time. Sometimes emotions are a mixed bag but in general it’s hard to fully occupy more than one at the same time when they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Certain feelings go hand in hand – feeling jealous, inadequate, depressed. Feeling angry, hurt, revengeful. Or on the other side of the spectrum … feeling peace, acceptance, forgiveness. Feeling joyful, enthusiastic, inspired.
No doubt when one of the less desirable feelings like anger comes on … it is quite difficult to try to replace it with let’s say one of gratitude. It takes intention. It takes practice. But even in that moment of a bubbled over spaghetti sauce mess … there is hope. It is possible.
It may not be immediate depending on the situation, but through a purposeful, intentional practice I start to see the world differently. Suddenly there is more and more to be grateful for. Those “bad” moments still come. Those emotions I would rather not have still come crashing in. I still have spaghetti sauce moments. But through the practice of focusing my eyes on Him and what I have to be grateful for, He changes me and I start to become a little less quick to react, a little more patient, a little more understanding. Hopefully a little more like Jesus.
Write it down. Say it out loud. Literally change your attitude from the inside out by changing your perspective. Learn to say what God says and not what your feelings say. Thank Him. Declare His promises and then thank Him again.
It’s a day-to-day if not moment-to moment choice. Yet I only have to keep my eyes on this day or this moment, on my Everyday God , and soon all these days come together and make up a month, a year, a decade, a life-time. Then I suddenly look back and see I am not the same woman I was “yesterday” and I know I won’t be the same “tomorrow” either.
In the end it’s not only a choice but it’s also an act of surrender. Surrendering my right to my emotion for something better, something that is bigger than my internal world. Something of God. And I am fortunate enough to reap the benefits. My spaghetti sauce becomes richer , with a depth of flavor and aroma I would of not known otherwise.