When I was two years old, some woman at church gave my mom a copy of “The Strong-Willed Child.” Her keen powers of observation concluded that my mom had a situation on her hands, and it might be best to take it into hand while I was a toddler and she still had a fighting chance at domination.
Let’s just say I’ve always had Big Feelings.
I’m in an interesting season. My Big Feelings have served the kingdom well in many ways. They are part and parcel of Big Passions, Big Ideas, Big Courage, Big Stories. I am a catalyzer, and enthusiasm and conviction are helpful tools for the role. Righteous indignation is a powerful force when dealing with injustice, oppression, abuse. When partnered with discernment, Big Feelings in the hands of the right communicator can initiate important movement.
But Big Feelings can also wound and offend, even unintentionally. Or totally intentionally. As one who tends to buck the system, who often has a problem with The Man (whoever he is), sometimes my prophetic bent unfairly injures. Truthfully, my heart always stands with the Little Guy, the Underdog, the Marginalized, the Misfit, and because I lean toward inclusion and reform and struggle with power paradigms and hierarchies, I sometimes sweep good people into the fray and issue an indictment where one is not deserved.
I’ve had a couple of direct confrontations in the last six months over this very issue. With an eye toward the outcast and a generous application of my Big Feelings (i.e. Big Public Words), I reinforced some divisions rather than build bridges between the people of God. What could have moved the body toward unity instead further drove a wedge.
A couple of mature, godly people I respect pushed back.
I was defensive and felt misunderstood.
Then I listened.
I remembered all the times I’ve been swept up into someone’s label, assigned characteristics and opinions and perspectives I never actually held. I’ve been typecasted too, and it is a horrid, helpless feeling, this inability to defend myself against someone else’s unmerited statement.
I’m going through a softening, finding tenderness where there was once only indignation. I’m learning a lesson on peacemaking – and I haven’t liked it so don’t imagine I’m enjoying this season. But I see that we can accomplish so much more with respectful conversation than burning everything to the ground. The collateral damage bears consideration; I will answer for it. I do not get a free pass on offensiveness simply because I fancy myself a spokesman for the marginalized.
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’”
Elijah is going to experience the presence of God, literally manifesting. This is monumental. We are all getting to witness God’s physical expression on earth. He had every option available. After all, injustice and idolatry were in play. These were spiritually dark days. Prophets were murdered, covenants broken, altars torn down, righteousness mocked. If ever there was a time for shock and awe, this was it. In the face of such societal rebellion and evil, we certainly expect God to rain down blows.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19)
How can we make sense of this tenderness? How do we interpret such a gentle presence even in the midst of spiritual upheaval? I have so much to learn from this divine moment. God is still powerful, fully sovereign and righteous, yet His approach is healing, soothing, peaceful. The prophet who just said, “I have had enough, Lord…take my life,” was renewed.
I want to restore; it is truly the legacy I crave. I want to be a part of a kingdom that heals and soothes, that gives rest to the weary and a safe place to feel God’s gentle presence. I sincerely want to build bridges and join Jesus in the work of redemption, not simply deconstruct, inadvertently destroying good work that has already been laid. The gospel is Good News, but sometimes all the Big Feelings make it feel like a civil war, and I’m weary of it.
I’d rather be a peacemaker; there is enough strife on earth already. Although humbling to put my head down and apologize for injuring, for casting some unfair stones, something freed up inside. A hard place became tender and I’m grateful. There is a way to fight for justice without tearing down the innocent. The earthquake shatters, yes, but the gentle wind restores, and I’d rather be an agent of building up than tearing down.
“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:12)