People don’t like drama queens. If someone is said to be a particular body who is always surrounded by an entourage of drama, it is not a good thing. We apologize for being too “emotional” around people, we uphold those who appear to be stoically grounded and realistic, and we causally make fun of too much excitement as if it held the same maturity of tween-aged girls texting 300 words a minute about their swelling love for Taylor Lautner. These are my thoughts that suggest an opposing idea about emotional drama…maybe it isn’t always so bad, or at the very least, maybe it isn’t the same as a Taylor Lautner reaction.I’m not saying that emotions can’t lead you down some paths that probably shouldn’t be traveled. I’m just trying to make a case that sometimes when drama happens in your life, it should not be immature or socially unacceptable to try and face it.
A few weeks ago a speaker came to our college to talk in chapel. He made some kind of warning about following your emotions when it came to following God. “Don’t let yourselves be swung so heavily by your emotions!” or something to that affect. This reminded me of a numerous students I’ve talked to who have had a hard time believing that God has emotions (other than anger and annoyance) and who therefore, have a hard time forgiving themselves when they feel emotional. In fact, one of the students who I love and respect a great deal, struggles with accepting that particular emotions, deemed by our society to be more “feminine” and also somewhat “weak” (sensitivity, compassion, gentleness, etc.) are, in fact, acceptable before God and even emoted toward us by God himself (or, God’s self, I mean.) This student, like many, including myself at times, believes that God loves them only through “tough love”.
I remember wrestling with this during the summer. After crying on a few of my friends’ couches, and all the while repeating over and over “I’m so sorry to be so dramatic”, or “I promise, I really CAN control my emotions!” I realized that I had even bought into the idea that most emotion expressed to others threatened to label me as dramatic and crazy. I also started to realize how often we refer to drama as annoying and necessary to avoid.
And then… after I felt ashamed of being a drama queen, God used emotion to speak hope into my life. Not words, but emotion. And I let those emotions marinate a little. And while they were marinating, I happened to re-read a segment from a fabulous book that I read in January: Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster. In a chapter that Foster addresses Contemplative Prayer, he talks about using your feelings and imagination to connect and be with God:
“This kind of prayer is obviously more an experience of the heart than of the head. But this stress upon the feelings disturbs us. We have been trained throughout our lives to distrust our feelings, and the very idea that we could gain some knowledge of truth and reality by way of the feelings seems ludicrous. We must not, however, be too quick to judge… In using the language of feeling, contemplatives are referring to a deep experienced sense of God – a kind of inner hearing, if you will… besides, our feelings can be disciplined and sanctified by God just as fully as our reason and our imagination can be.”
To me, Foster brought a lot of clarity, and what seems like a healthy balance to the social norm of avoiding emotion and the fear of emotion becoming an all consuming self-absorbed deluded immature puddle of drama. And ultimately, this is what I now challenge students (and myself) to see: if Jesus is the main redeemer of… everything, how can we let Christ redeem our emotions along with the drama that will, as long as we live in this beautifully broken and colorful world, always be close by? And I truly believe that having my emotions and drama redeemed means that it will become validated instead of rejected or avoided at all costs.
So here I am declaring or confessing that I am a drama queen. I like things big and bold and spicy. If it were socially acceptable to dress like Lady Gaga to work everyday, I think I would. If tattoos weren’t permanent (or so painful), I would decorate my face with stars. Yes, my face, and yes, stars. And I would think about dying my eye brows neon tangerine or a radiant shade of magenta, because, no they’re not red enough already. There’s something about the fabulous things in life, and also the gut-wrenching debilitating things in life that catches my attention and traps it. If I can’t taste something, understand something, see something, hear something, feel something, then I can only guess and trust that it is real. Even highly educated guesses that have been proven still sometimes require some element of trust. I am content to guess and trust a lot, but it is a blessed luxury to be sure sometimes. And in a strange way, as ironic as it sounds, drama and feelings can significantly help bring that certainty.
These are some of the truths that God has been able to teach me by communicating to my feelings:
God is rooting for me and gets excited when I want to fight for the things that God fights for.
Worrying about what somebody wants from you doesn’t compare to being their friend or letting them be your friend.
Honesty can bring about a lot of freedom. Fear does not bring freedom.
God created emotions (brilliant right?) and is emotional himself (I mean, God’s self…)
Therefore I am not ashamed to be either.