Friday, January 24, 2014

Navigating the Emotional Road of Ministry

Ok guys, I'm going to be vulnerable. I don't want to, but I'm going to do it. Brace yourselves.

Last week I cried. A lot. And I actually forgot about it until yesterday, which is weird because I seriously have not cried that much in a long time. One minute I was talking with my roommate/teammate Tiffany and the next I was bawling, my whole body trembling with the emotion that was exploding out of me. 

I was as surprised as she was.

What I think threw me over the proverbial edge was a dream that one of my students had recently described to me. It was the scariest thing I have ever heard, complete with oppressive demons and the devil himself stealing her away. She cried, I cried, we all cried. And then we prayed.

I don't know what it was about that specific dream but it was the icing on the cake (I guess) to all that I have learned and heard of since being here. You can say it becomes your every day when working in a painful context, but there is a loss of innocence that occurs that can't be reversed. It hurts. And it changes things.

So I cried and wept and shook with emotion for the pain and crap that my students go through. I was angry at the devil, angry that demons can physically touch and scare my students, and angry that this kind of crap exists.

That night I had a roommate sleepover in the living room because I didn't want to sleep alone. The nights before I hadn't been able to sleep without a light on. I was affected, and it was messing me up.

After all of that I felt like I was fine and it was over and I moved on. Or so I thought. But then this week multiple people mentioned that I seemed different, and to be honest, I felt different. As a person known for grandiose empathy, compassion, feelings, and joy, I realized that I now felt rather empty inside. It was as if a door had been shut involuntarily and I had lost all capacity for emotion, positive or negative. My "compassion meter" seemed broken and I struggled to feel anything at all.

Involuntarily, and without my permission, it seemed that my body and mind had decided that enough was enough. The great outpouring of sadness, fear, and frustration had led my insides to choose for me. And my insides decided that it was best to close the door to emotion and protect myself from feeling that way again.

I can tell you, it is almost as terrible to not feel as to feel. I wish I still had those strong messy emotions. I would rather hurt than cut myself off and harden my heart to what goes on around me, but I have not yet found the solution. I haven't found the balance and I am in the process of figuring this whole "loss of innocence" thing out. My prayer is that in some way God will be able to bring that joy back to my soul, that He will push ajar the door that leads to my vulnerable heart.

But until then, I will continue on. I will seek the council of those that God has provided to speak into my life, I will pour into the Word of God, and I will find His presence in every day and every moment.

I can assure you (in case you are worried) that this is not a post of emotional breakdown or deep problematic issues. It is simply a step in the journey of working among the poor, the marginalized, and the broken. I will not leave this place the person I was when I entered, and that is ok. No matter what happens I know that through this experience God will be glorified and I will be sanctified. Sure, this post doesn't have a concrete end or solution, but I know that God will not leave me in this alone. I know that (as the song says) there will be an end to these troubles, but until that day comes I will praise Him. For what else can we do in the midst of suffering, but believe that in the end, everything will work out for the good of those who love Him.

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