Emotions contain information. Emotions are our bodies way of taking in this world and expressing what it means to us. Usually, emotions are a form of protection. Joy signals and builds relational connection and tears signal a need that needs to be met. However, most Christians are taught to suppress and distrust their emotions. Some are also taught that every negative emotion is a "spiritual attack" and they just need to pray it away. Suppressing emotions, dismissing their validity, and even battling it in the spiritual only (without making necessary life changes) can lead to chronic illness, panic attacks, and relational dysfunction. There are ways to healthily process emotions and glean valuable information from them using both spiritual principles and practical life changes. Here's a few things you need to know:
Anger has always been an uncomfortable emotion for me to express. For many years of my life, friends of mine would've heard me say, "I just don't get angry." I was proud of my non-angry existence and thought that people who did get angry or frustrated were high maintenance or dramatic. This strike on anger was reinforced almost every day by my Conservative Christian community. Bible verses like, "Anger doesn't produce the righteousness of God," "revenge belongs to the Lord," and "whoever hates his brother in his heart is a murderer" were staples in my community and I stood by them with pride. Everything was fine until, one day, I got angry; furious, in fact. So furious that I couldn't keep up my "low maintenance, anti-diva" image. But the biggest problem was who I was angry at: God.
If you haven't seen this story circulating, you will soon. Lindsay Davis is quickly gaining notoriety for speaking out against the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) by saying that they're a cult. Additionally, she claims that BSSM doesn't teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, that they don't value the Bible, and that many of their practices are New Age and heretical. Lindsay Davis was a first year student at BSSM who was asked to leave the school after a few months of attending. The expulsion occurred because the school felt that Davis was dishonoring the Bethel leaders, namely, Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton, by sharing content on BSSM social media pages by pastoral leaders who openly oppose Johnson and Vallotton and what they stand for. The tension began to make BSSM students uncomfortable and fearful around Davis, so, the BSSM leaders asked her to leave the school. Since her 'excommunication,' as she calls it, Davis has been spreading her story and experience. In March, Davis appeared on the podcast Cultish where she told her whole experience at BSSM in a three part series with podcast hosts, Jeff Durbin and Jeremiah Roberts.
Without fail, telling myself the story of my life always brings me back to center. The peace I receive from recounting God's faithfulness in my life is unrivaled. The worship I bring is rarely more pure than what I bring after I've relived God's specific rescuings in my life. I know that He is unchanging and that whatever I'm facing in my present, or whatever I will face in my future, He will come through just like He's always done. There's a reason that God repeatedly told the Israelites to build memorials at significant places and after significant events. He knew those stories would become the core of what set Israel apart as a nation. God's presence was with them (and still is) and they carried an armory of stories to prove it to other nations and to themselves if they ever faltered.
It's been almost six months since I've written anything. I'm not filling up journals like I used to, my social media has been near inactive and, overall, I don't have anything to say. If I'm a writer, this isn't supposed to happen, right? Call it writer's block, call it a healthy break and time of rejuvenation, but I call it an unlearning. An unlearning, but also an invitation to what it really means to be led by the Spirit and see myself for who I really am.
I've noticed something in myself recently. I've noticed that whenever I think about Jesus' invitation into perfect peace and abundant joy, fear, skepticism, and disappointment comes up in my soul.
Ya, I know. It's weird. I'm promised and given perfect peace and abundant joy, and I become hesitant. It doesn't seem to follow. But it hit me after God gave me dream.
I heard someone describe it like this recently: "It's like a baby giraffe trying to find its footing."
Spit fresh out of college with starry eyes, my Bachelor of Arts, an amazing husband, loads of sweet memories, and dreams a little too big for my own comfort can lead me to one of two paths:
Am I the only one who thinks this way? A ghost of mine that I just can't seem to let sleep is the fear that I'm missing something. Across any domain, in any circumstance, I wonder if I'm seeing the full picture. It quite literally haunts me. As my fingers search the pages of my old and not so old journals, I see the word "compassless" describe me over and over. I see prayers written with unrecorded answers and I see the wisdom of my hindsight--and I wonder where that discernment was when I needed it.
"Hey, are you a singer?" It really wasn't all that weird that a random girl approached me with this question. My fiance, Jordan, and I were at an International House of Prayer One Thing Conference with some of our friends. In this space, people are always praying for one another, prophesying over each other, and sharing with people what they think God thinks about them. I was used to seeing it by then, but this question was awfully specific.
When I picked up the phone, it was Jane Armstrong: the spiritual mamma of Miami Cru for 30+ years. "Hi Taylor. We are having a special 'women's Cru' in a couple weeks. I was hoping that night that you would share your insights about Biblical Femininity that we talked about the other day!"
Of course, Jane.
Biblical Femininity was one of my favorite topics at the time and I started working on my message right away. I felt honored and excited that Jane picked me, a sophomore, to be a teacher that night and I was determined to kill it.
I was one of the few women who showed up this morning. The home where we gathered rested red against the silent, melting snow. The plot gets its name, "Cloudland," from the beautiful sky view from their hilltop perch. There's an entire building dedicated to prayer and spiritual mentorship on the property, two wildflower fields, and a barn where weekend worshipers gather. I've walked the flower fields and written my heart out on these grounds, but today I was talking out my story with some peers and mentors.
"How do you spell it?" my friend asked.
"E-N-N-E-A-G-R-A-M. Enneagram." I said.
"And what is it?" she asked again.
The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system. It has Christian monk roots and is currently making a resurgence in helping businesses, churches, and your average Joe understand themselves a bit better. In college, I'm a Psychology major, and the Enneagram is the first personality typer that I felt actually gave me real handholds for why I have the insecurities I do and what I can do to grow.
I couldn't shake it. By all appearances, it was a normal day in my favorite class--the Psychology of Play--, but my mind was far from focused. Every Monday and Wednesday at lunch, I cheerily waved hello to friends and waltzed into our bright classroom content with an overflowing salad. But today, with every bite I became more and more unsettled. It started a few days ago: I resolved to not pass up any opportunity I saw to pray for someone; Whether it be for physical healing, emotional turmoil, or whatever other darkness happened to be hovering that day. I was angsty in class because I had walked right past a girl on crutches who was complaining to her friend about the injury and I hadn't offered prayer. I was supposed to be helping to lead class that day, but five minutes in, while my partner was teaching, I walked out the door.
"Can you pick me up from the park behind Kroger? We're done here." Luckily, I was already at Kroger so I finished up and headed over. My boyfriend, Jordan, and three of my friends were at a Muslim celebration open to the community. The Muslims were celebrating the end of Eid--a commemoration festival where the Muslims celebrate Abraham sacrificing Ishmael (though the Bible says that Isaac was offered) and the lamb that God provided. The Muslims were celebrating with a potluck open to the community. My friends saw this as the perfect opportunity to bring Jesus' love to them. Grocery shopping kept me from going. Classic.
I never noticed or thought it important who the angels chose to tell about Jesus' birth. They didn't go to the ones with influence: the kings, the governors, the warriors, or the religious leaders of the day. They went to the shepherds: the ones with the menial jobs and the ones doing it well. Along with this story in Luke 2, I've been reading the story of Moses and the Israelites. Moses’ whole life was spent shepherding; first, flocks of sheep, then, the nation of Israel. As I’ve dwelt on these two stories, God has continued to speak to me about how He is the good shepherd and how seeing more deeply into His shepherd’s heart equips me to live a lifestyle of shepherding.
Yesterday, I was in a Bible study with some beautiful old ladies. We met in a conference room at the church and it immediately became clear that these ladies weren't messing around. Passionate conversation flashed across the table and it kept knocking me in the head and heart.
I did a crazy thing. I moved across the country where I know no one and don't have a job. Classic millennial move, I know. I'm not running from myself, I'm not trying to find myself, and I'm not looking for amazing Instagram pics. For awhile, I had no idea why I was here. God didn't tell me to come and, honestly, I didn't really want to. I'm in the same boat as you with this decision: confused.
I went to Israel in May and I'm still untangling how it changed me. When we landed back in the States, one of our group members said, "It's like we just time traveled." Our flight from Newark, NJ to Tel Aviv, Israel was ten hours and we were met with a 7 hour time difference. For ten days we were at least one day ahead of the Western world, but centuries behind in history.
I work at a place where I help people tell stories with excellence. Being a writing consultant means being a safe place where writers can divulge their writing insecurities in confidence and leave with new confidence. One of my supervisors is currently writing his dissertation. I’m not exactly sure what the topic is, but, he wanted to interview me about my journey with writing. I gladly agreed to an hour conversation about such things (and an Amazon gift card). We talked about my journey, what writing is to me, and what I had learned from college about writing. I was honest. I said that I felt like I hadn’t learned much. In an education institution that tries to quantify such things like writing skills, intelligence, and depression, it’s hard to learn how things really are.
3 in the morning and I saw the familiar sight of a dressed up girl standing alone in her heels on the sidewalk with her phone pressed to her ear. She'd been standing there awhile and it looked like whoever she'd been calling wasn't answering. I walked over to her and asked if I could walk her home or if she needed any help. "I'm trying to get ahold of my boyfriend but he's not answering. He always does this. He's mean to me." Tears trickled out and down and she told me how hard it's been to get out of the abusive relationship. She knew she was wasting her college years, she knew he wasn't a good guy, but she also said she loved him. My heart went out to her and we talked for my heart had been similarly trapped before.
In college, our bright yellow house sits in between two apartment complexes. We call our house The Lighthouse and we sit out on our porch and get to know the dog-walkers and stroller-pushers. The other night, our neighbor, Greg, stopped by the porch to chat as he walked his English Bulldog puppy. Greg is a big man with a soft voice and kind eyes. We see Greg walking Archie, his dog, almost every night. As we chatted we learned that he lives alone, has some health issues that interfere work, that he just finalized a divorce, and that his daughter won't let him see his grandkids. Greg wasn't grumpy, he wasn't complaining, he was just connecting. "Archie doesn't talk much."
A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream about one of my friends who doesn't know Jesus. In the dream, he told me, "Taylor! I see the fruitlessness of my life and I want Jesus now!" I hadn't talked to this friend in over a year nor had I been praying for him. But, when I woke up, I knew God was after him and that I was meant to pray for him - even if it was just for that day.
I've walked past that spot dozens of times, but never really took advantage of it. At the state park nearby, there's a thin trail that follows the water's edge. As you walk, you come to a spot where a fallen tree hovers over the lake. It's thick enough, it's stable enough, and it's teasing enough to make me want to tip-toe on out. So I did. I went as far as my bravery took me, then just sat and stared and swung my toe across the water's surface. My bravery built back up then I ventured further. This process of settling in then venturing out brought me to the very tip--a place that teased me before now supported my relaxation and gave me a view.
One of the most detrimental things we can do to our spiritual life is to think it's all about salvation. What I mean is staying in the idea that Heaven is on the way once we've said the prayer, therefore, this life is rather inconsequential. I'm not about to go into explaining what Paul has to say about the proper response to our salvation and grace. I want to talk about how the salvation of our souls is only one cog in a much larger machine.
Salvation is just the first step in this adventure.
"The problem of pain." It's one of the most prevalent reasons people don't bother to think about Jesus. Every time a nonChristian or a Christian brings up this subject, it's always felt oddly difficult to answer. I know that everything doesn't need a proven answer, but, I would at least like some framework of thinking about this "problem" that brings peace into my life.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.