Recently, the weather forecaster on our local news channel warned that our area was under a “Red Flag Warning.” This warning is made when warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds are forecast. The combination of these weather conditions produces increased risk of fire danger.
I’m convinced our negative emotional responses are great spiritual “red flag warnings.”
Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, authors of Boundaries – When to Say Yes and How to Say No, tell us that when we experience the negative emotion of resentment, that’s a “red flag” indicator our relational boundaries are askew.
Last week my daughter loaned me a book, Present Over Perfect saying, “I think you’ll really like this.” She was correct. In one of my favorite chapters, author Shauna Niequest, discusses her “red flag” realization that she was jealous of a friend. Niequest determined she would learn from her feelings of jealousy instead of avoiding them. “I’m learning,” she said, “that envy can be an extremely useful tool to demonstrate our desires, especially the ones we haven’t yet allowed ourselves to feel…”
I appreciated her discovery. “When I allowed myself to tiptoe past the…envy, what I found was longing. I was longing for a life that felt light, right-sized for my strengths and limitations. This was never about her [the friend]. This was about me.”
I’ve always had a lot of fears. In recent posts, I’ve disclosed my long-time fear of cats, fear of heights, fear of traveling on two-lane highways. But, the more insidious fears have been interior fears of inadequacy, abandonment, what people think about me, whether I’m likable enough or just plain whether I’m even enough!
The wisdom of St. Ignatius has helped me face my fears. Ignatius teaches that fear, a spirit of desolation, is NEVER from God and will only drive us further from, rather than closer to, God.
I’ve been working to recognize and lean into some of my fears. When I feel a giant of fear breathing down my neck, I try to speak truth to that fear, reminding the enemy of my soul that God has NOT given me this spirit of fear, but I am a woman with spiritual power, love and a sound mind. (See 2 Timothy 1:7)
Is there a negative emotion weighing down your soul? What if, like Shauna Niequist, you used that negative emotion as a “tool to demonstrate [y]our desires.”
I hope these words in today’s post will encourage you to lean in, face the giant, dissect the emotion, and look for what lies beneath. If you don’t know where to begin, perhaps this prayer based on James 1:5 will help:
Your Word reminds me that if anyone lacks wisdom, that person can ask God, and you will grant wisdom liberally and will never find fault with such a request. Right now, I ask You to give me wisdom about my negative emotion of __________________________.
Please show me what it is that’s going on in my heart. What have I not allowed myself to feel? What have I been denying or minimizing? Who have I been blaming?
What kind of person do You want me to be? Please give me that same desire.
Give me the courage to lean into and learn from my emotions.
I’m praying with you…