I think the hardest part about having a big heart and a hypersensitive emotional system is that I feel and respond to everything. I could say that it is because my Zodiac sign is Virgo and historically they are emotional people. However, I feel I minimize the effect of the Holy Spirit on my life if I just say that I am emotional- because that does not fully describe what is happening within me. Not to mention the fact that I don’t believe in astrological signs and all that jazz.
I’m not emotional; I’m highly relational and responsive.
In one LONG conversation that I had to have with God I told Him (yeah, I was bold and crazy enough to do that) that I wanted Him to take away my big heart. I told Him that I was tired of being hurt and that if He removed it, things would be better because I wouldn’t care so much and I wouldn’t get hurt so much and so often. I love God and He normally hears and answers all of my prayers… but He definitely ignored that one.
And I’m glad He did.
I realized that if He had taken away my big heart and my hypersensitive emotional system then I would not be able to serve Him the way He needs me to. Without my ability to cry, experience the emotions of others, or love hard and wholly, then I would not be able to be the person He needs me to be. How could I minister to people about Jesus without being in touch with my emotions? How could I be stoic and soothing at the same time? My hypersensitivity- though perceived by humans as something that needs to fixed- is exactly what God uses to work through me.
Yet I’ll be honest, I did try to push my emotions out of the way.
I started hanging with the IDGAF crew (I don’t curse anymore, but if you use your imagination, you can figure that out) and worked on not giving a flying fruitcake* about the rest of the world. I said whatever I wanted, ate whatever I pleased, cursed like a sailor at sea, drank liquor like water, and didn’t give a [bleep] about anything or anybody. Promiscuous is a grave understatement to describe that time in my life. I hated my feelings because they always got me hurt and I was mad at God for giving them and not taking them away when I asked Him to. I wanted to be cold-hearted. I wanted to be apathetic towards life. I wanted to not care about people the way so many had not cared about me.
But, like everything that I do that is outside of God’s will for my life, I failed miserably. I started developing feelings for those around me, caring way more than I should have and investing emotionally more than I should have.
I had failed.
I couldn’t even not care.
God, why give me a heart to care if You planned to surround me with people who don’t care about me?! Why give me a heart to love if no one wants my love?!
I yelled at God.
I questioned His sovereignty.
I doubted His love for me.
I was hurt.
I was mad.
I was broken.
This is the part where I should tell you that I used to hate my name as a child. Michelle. So formal and so old. I desperately wanted to change my name to Lisa (my middle name) or Kelly. Either one of those names would have been better than Michelle. That’s some stush, old woman’s name. That should not have been my name!
But one day I did one of those iVillage (showing my age here) searches and discovered the meaning of my name:
Who is like the Lord.
I learned that my name was the French feminine derivative of the Hebrew name Michael, which also means “who is like the Lord.” And, if you remember, Michael was an archangel in the Bible, stated to have commanded God’s army against Satan in Revelations. Michael fought hard and long for his God. Michael walked in the way of the Lord.
Michael was important.
He was super dope.
And my name derived from his.
When I learned that little fact, I looked at my name differently. I began to appreciate its meaning and I proudly told people what my name was and what it meant.
So what does my name’s meaning have to do with this writing? Well, it’s quite simple really: in knowing what my name meant, I knew who I was and Whose I was. In learning my name’s meaning, I also learned my life’s meaning and purpose.
I came to understand that my hypersensitive emotions were simply God’s way of moving my heart. My heart is raw and uncovered, allowing it to take on the love of the Father and share it with no boundaries to others. I do not know how to half-love. I do not know how to only give a portion of myself away to someone else. I do not know how to be inauthentic. Even when I tried to have a reflective heart, loving others as they loved me, eventually God would shine through and full love would evolve.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.Ezekiel 36:26, NIV
I do not say any of this to brag or boast in any way. In fact, what we often hate or deem “too much” in others can be the very thing that God is using to save another person’s life. As for me, if I did not have this heart and hypersensitive emotional system, then I could not preach, I could not teach, I could not write, I could not photograph, and I could not serve. Without the realization of God’s purpose for my raw emotions I could not walk in my authenticity and freedom.
Though my feelings and emotions leave me open to much hurt and scrutiny, they also saved my life.
With this month being May and Mental Health Awareness Month, I can truly say that when I didn’t care about God’s purpose for my life, I did not care about my life. I tried to end my life many ways and many times before I realized the calling that was on my life. Yes, my heart leaves me wide open to pain, but pain means that I am still alive to feel… and I’ll take pain over numbness any day.
Being numb means that I am merely existing, not living the abundant life that God promised me in His word (John 10:10).
Being numb, for me, meant that I was one step closer to not needing to be alive at all.
My alphabet soup of diagnoses (ADD, GAD, OCD, and PTSD) still impact my life today. I have the attention span of Dory (oh, squirrel!), I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks at times, I have to have things a certain way or else I lose my stuff, and I live with a mental blockage of my youth. Oh, I still got my mess, but best believe God is still working this mess into a message of His redemptive grace.
I am flawed by nature.
I am saved by grace.
Yes, I own my emotions, but they are not the thermostat of my life… anymore.
In The Dark Place, I fell into the deepest pit of depression and was consumed by all that had happened and was happening to me. For six months there was nothing that could be said or done to change my desire to succumb to sadness, gluttony, lethargy, and the death of my spirit. Emotionally I felt dead and I wished often that I was physically dead. At that time, my emotions set the tone for how my life would go. Today, I chose to walk in the truth of God’s word and let Genesis to Revelations determine how my life should move. Trust, I still hurt at times- insults still sting and unfair characterizations still sadden me- but I try my hardest to respond with love, not hate.
I had to laugh as I wrote that last sentence because it reminded me of my sermon from last Wednesday. In it I quoted the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness,Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Only light can do that;
Hate cannot drive out hate,
Only love can do that.
As much as I want to hate people for the way they treat me, I think of Jesus and that quote and muster up all the love that I can to offer them in return.
AND IT AIN’T EASY!
Do you know how much the old Shelly wants to come out sometimes??? How much I want to let all this Baltimore and Jamaica come out so that I can verbally put people in their place??? Do you know the internal battle that I fight DAILY to respond to hatred with love??? I am a young, black woman with a masters degree who gets belittled and disrespected everyday by colleagues (and a supervisor) and I PROMISE you it takes all the Jesus in me to not react accordingly…
But I press.
Oh, yes, I am emotional, but it is for God’s greater purpose. If I didn’t have the emotions that I have I’d hate to be you if you got on my bad side…
But as I bring this to a close I want to end by explaining something that I said earlier. When God places people in our lives, it’s always for a season and a reason. The hardest part about having these people in our lives is that the closer they get, the more we see our own qualities in them. Conflict and contempt arise when we realize that what we see, we can’t stand. These qualities tend to be things that we secretly hate about ourselves but we aren’t strong enough to admit them to that person, to God, or even to ourselves.
I LOVE my little niece, Sophia. She is my heartbeat outside of my chest and my shadow, to say the least. But let me tell you the one thing that she does that drives me bonkers: she asks 50 million questions at one time and interrupts me when I try to answer those questions.
You wanna guess what is my most annoying quality? Yep, you guessed it. I ask 50 million questions at one time and interrupt people when they try to answer those questions.
Beloved, it is so common for us to dismiss, belittle, mistreat, and alienate people because they are too much like us or we think they are too much unlike us. Fight this feeling. Love everyone. Love them if they are different, love them if they are the same. If you see someone who exhibits a quality that you don’t particularly like, look internally before condemning that difference. You never know, that quality that you hate could be the very quality that God is using to save someone else’s life. Love with the grace of God and the love of Jesus.
I have a big heart and a hypersensitive emotional system.
And I’m ok with that.
I’m even more ok with the fact that many may not like that.
But know that my God created me this way-
Take that up with Him.