My family is composed of high feelers. You will regularly find the entire spectrum of human emotion displayed through my wild and free five-year-old. This fierce beauty wears her heart on her sleeve. In fact, at her younger sister’s last birthday, she was recorded saying, “I know it’s not my party and I can cry if I want to!” In a matter of 60 seconds she went from hysterically crying to laughing, then to all out toy-throwing rage. (To be honest, this capability to feel and express such range of emotion terrified me! I found myself overwhelmed and feeling ill-equipped to navigate such depth of emotion in such a young being.)
Part of this is because I was raised in a way that required me to stuff all of my emotions. I was also told that all emotion was too intense or an overreaction. I knew this was not how I wanted to raise my children. I so desired for them to value their emotions and to successfully navigate deep feelings with nurture and love while also embodying resilience when things got tough.
Alas, after many parenting articles, podcasts, and hours of wisdom from a mentor, I took a pause out of sheer exhaustion. Nothing seemed to help my daughter feel capable to move on from what upset her, and nothing seemed to help me feel confident that I was using the right tools to assure connection and security.
Then one very late night in May I found myself going to the one I knew would have the right answer. I opened to the Psalms and there I saw a perfect example of a high feeler — David, the man after God’s own heart.
David relentlessly expressed himself to God using the entire human spectrum of emotion and was unapologetically himself. Never did he hide away or stuff his emotions out of fear, but pursued his father’s ear and heart out of a place of security knowing his identity was found solely in God. Not only did God reward his authenticity and not shy away from such raw emotion, he pursued David in return and came closer to his beloved child.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:1-2, NLT).
Next I focused on the New Testament. Looking at Jesus and how he interacted with the people, I soon realized that he also felt the entire spectrum of human emotion. In Jesus, we see the Father’s heart displayed in his son. Jesus was also secure in his identity with God and did not shy away from emotion. In countless narratives Jesus feels human emotion, pours out over anyone who asks of him, then sneaks away to rest and be with God. In return he is refreshed, clear headed, loving and resilient. All the things that I long for my children to be.
Equipped with clarity and refreshed with the Word, I approached my daughter and her latest tantrum with confidence. I sat with her, embraced her, and allowed her to wrestle with her feelings. When she was a little calmer I asked if we could invite God into her pain. After we prayed, I explained to her very clearly that it’s OK to have big feelings and that she has a beautiful gift to feel and love so deeply. I reassured her that she doesn’t need to rush herself out of scary or big feelings but she can invite Jesus into them and allow him to help her move on when it’s time.
It’s pretty conclusive that the author of life, the one who made us, is an emotional God. Therefore we should not fear emotions. Rather like David, we should embrace them, sit with them, wrestle with them and then sneak away, inviting our Heavenly Father into them so in turn we can be refreshed, and clear headed, knowing exactly when to move on, loving, resilient, and not easily shaken.
After all, we are human beings made to experience and witness an intense spectrum of emotion. When we do, we can rest assured that this does not disqualify us from God’s grace or love; rather it teaches us abundantly about God’s loving character. Here his love and grace become more amplified, revealing that when we are real, we are connected — fully loved, seen, and known, like David, but women after God’s own heart.
Esther “Annie” Rhoades is a mom to three, wild and free kids and has been happily married to her best friend, Jon, for over 10 years. Annie values experience over things and loves yoga with worship music, diving into the word, hosting, thrifting, making healthy goodies, and traveling.