A few months ago, a friend of mine and a very wise woman, sat me down for a conversation that God has used to really help me change my course. The things we talked about were things that I felt God stirring in my heart in the form of discontentment with the current state, but just couldn't really articulate how to change course or why.
It came to mind a couple nights ago when Scott and I had an argument. We were talking past each other, really, both communicating to each other, supposedly in response to one another, but really just speaking to the fear in our hearts. And the more we talked, the more the fear and frustration seemed to spin out of control. We don't really argue very often, and a heated conversation is even more rare - so when it takes place, we take note about what went wrong.
In the end, we realized that I had been holding back some pretty strong emotions about how we were doing life. I know, we both know, that in these areas we are certainly following God's direction, but even though it's God's direction does not mean it is sunshine and roses. These emotions on top of pregnancy hormones and a physically and emotionally exhausting week just spilled over like a mighty current, rushing my poor husband without warning. I think I really just needed to vent (and maybe I should have vented this to God a long time ago), and was really just wanting Scott to say he was sorry for how I felt but that God would see us through and that he was here with me. I visualized him putting his arm around me and praying with me and letting me cry on his shoulder; instead, he thought that my outburst was a strong argument to change direction, and he was defending the path we were going with all his might. I, of course, took this personally, and assumed that he was saying that my feelings were invalid and I needed to get over them and see clearly. Thankfully, God helped both of us to see clearly.
What really hit home for me was the realization that, as my friend told me several months ago, emotional vomit is often dangerous ground. She was telling me that when others are sharing their hurts and frustrations with me it is often human nature to go negative and that it is truly unhealthy for me to go there with them. She suggested the best way to help them is to help keep them from going further negative, further aggrivating those emotions, or getting sucked into that whirlwind with them. This seemed so cold and heartless to me in some ways, but I have often felt emotionally wiped after conversations so much that I felt that I must withdraw to survive. Instead of going there, she suggested acknowledging their frustration and asking how can I pray for you...not in some cold heartless way, but rather to protect them from creating further emotional turmoil by reliving the situation and protecting myself by jumping in to trecherous waters.
As I have prayed and sought God more in this area, He has shown me that when I am emotionally volitle, that I should go to Him. A rush of emotions is often a sign that something is out of order (even positive emotion), and that when I talk to Him, He is never tempted to sin, never speaks out of His own emotion, and cannot be destroyed by turmoil. He won't run away from my emotional outbursts, and He can help me to see clearly (and, as He often does, bring people in my life with superior wisdom, each bringing snippets of the bigger picture that He can paste together so I can see more clearly). He has shown me that when others are emotionally charged, it is best for me to lovingly acknowledge their hurts or fears, because that is compassionate, but not to "go there" with them so to speak, but rather to point them back to Him and pray for them. I have struggled so much with this because I hate to see others hurt and I want everyone to feel heard and cared for, but God has reminded me that it is prideful to think that every hurting person on the face of the planet needs me to care for them. They need Him, and when I exhaust myself on a cause that I am not really helping I am beneficial to no one and often destroy myself in the process.
With practice, this has become easier, but I have struggled to find the balance with my more intimate relationships (ie: my husband, best friends, etc.) The conversation with Scott helped me to realize that when I am the emotionally charged person, I really need those who know me and love me best to do a few things.
1. Recognize and separate out the emotional "mess" from the real me...who I am, what I am living for, and what I am really working toward and believe.
2. Be stable enough not to be drawn into the hurricane, that only seems to propel it to move at greater speeds and create a greater path of destruction.
3. To sympathize with me and not withdraw in fear.
4. Unless I specifically ask for advice, not to tell me how to fix it...this often makes the problem worse as well.
5. Help diffuse the emotional charge by pointing back to God...everything always gets messed up when things get out of focus.
Overall, I recognize that it is my responsibility to recognize when I am becoming emotionally tumultuous and turn to the Lord and allow Him to bring others in or out as need be in helping to sort through those feelings. And when I am on the other end, that I should do for those I love as I want as well, but that requires me to be at peace within myself and to submit my own emotions to the Lord - otherwise, there's no room for anyone else to have emotions.
I think these truths are often the source of miscommunication and turmoil especially within families because we spend so much time together and are more likely to spill over on each other. But when we can recognize that we are not feeling ok and give it to Jesus to allow Him to provide us peace, then we are able to be a safe place for others as well. That's the kind of friend I want to be, a friend that is a safe place and will point others back to the safest place.