Emotional Processing

It’s been a long week, full of meeting after emotional meeting, tears, joy, big decisions, constructive criticism of past mistakes- and still, at the end of it all, I sit. Still a mess in the Pollock canvas of emotions, splattered across my brain and dipping into my mental stability. I am thankful yoga class has taught me how to breathe deep, but as I breathe in through the nose and out through the, plot twist, nose, I begin to come to peace with the moment. In that peace, I come to a stark realization- I’m not confident I know how to take the past week, sort through the emotion and the words said and the words not said, and move forward with coherency.

Working with young adults experiencing their first year immersed in inner-city ministry, I throw the words, “emotional processing” and “emotional healing” out more than my fair share. It becomes my right-hand tool in working through a student coping with the death of someone they’ve been pouring out and receiving from, or in breaking down the front that served them well in high school, but only makes it so far in the real world. But this week, I’ve been challenged on how much I really know about this vague idea of “emotional processing”. So, I turned to my thinking place, my pseudo-prayer closet: the kitchen sink. I started washing dishes and chewing on the idea: what does it look like to harness raw and rambunctious emotion into productive processing?

As I scraped off burnt quinoa from the bottom of a saucepan, I began wondering what biblical emotional processing looked like, and if the Bible even dipped into emotional processing, or if it’s a construct in the mind of emotional 20-something-year-olds. I thought about Jesus, and wondered if the Son of God really needed to process through things, or if by the nature of divinity, He already had processed through the Second Coming.

I flipped open my Bible, and saw three things through the life of Jesus and how He shows us emotional processing in the Gospel:

  1. Jesus condones our alone time.

Jesus was all about His alone time. Over and over again in the Gospel writings, Jesus is said to have travelled to the woods to get alone (Luke 5:16), and even encourages His disciples, and now us, to get alone (Matthew 6:6). If the Son of God needed to crash in a tent in the woods with His Father every once in a while, what makes us think we can take burdens on without being alone? Like most aspects of life, pride usually plays a part, and our pride keeps us from accepting alone time as beneficial for both us and others. Oftentimes, alone time in ministry is considered selfish and (in more or less words) a waste of time. Shouldn’t I be saving souls, or praying for a nation or two? The reality is, you are not only hurting yourself in not seeking alone time to process- you are also hurting those around you. Take the time, away from your housemates, away from those you pour out to, even away from those who pour out to you, to meet one-on-one with God. Give yourself space to process.

  1. Jesus condones our sob sessions.

Jesus wept. If you don’t know this verse from the Gospel, surely you know it from my main dude Kanye. In the Garden of Gethsemane, before Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin, He cries. Jesus knows His fate, and He knows what His sacrifice on the cross will do for humanity, but He still cries. Odds are, you know whatever is going on in your life will end up okay. Even in knowing that, it is OKAY to cry. (Also know, though, Jesus ended His sob session with a declaration of sacrifice to God, laying down His wants for the needs of God’s people (Luke 22:42)).

  1. Jesus asks us, at the end of it all, to remember His promises.

Jesus asks us to remember the promises upheld through the cross in the Last Supper: “Take this break, and break it. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19). Through it all, we have a multitude of truths and promises to fall back on when discouragement seems to cloud any healing or future without pain. Here’s some that bring me back into a place of positivity in the face of heaviness:

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is the fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

The list tumbles on. His encouragement of steadfastness is prominent throughout the entirety of scripture. There will never be one answer to all emotional processing, but there is a direction for you to journey towards. The processing is the journey, and the journey is half, if not most, of the glory of arriving wherever it is you’re heading; in this case, emotional healing.

The process is important. Don’t let yourself get to step 3 without letting yourself get through step 1 and 2. Take time to recognize where you’re at, or you might just cheat yourself of growth in the midst of the processing. It’s more than okay to be okay, and if you are, claim it, but it’s also more than okay to not be okay. In fact, I encourage you to seek out in your heart (keeping in mind the Heart of God) if you are less okay than you paint yourself to be. Own it, eat a pint of ice cream, but then you throw that pint of ice cream away, know Who is waiting to walk with you through the processing, and face the very thing that deems you “not okay”.

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