Being A Woman: Believing That I Am Too Much
Editor’s Note: How long have you believed that you were just too much? How many times have you shoved your heart down to your feet, believing that it was all just broken and bad? How handicapped have you become in believing that your emotions do more harm than good? How many seasons of life have you gone through, painstakingly metering out the amount of yourself you believe is bearable to others? Jillian VandeWege tweets at @jillyvandewege. Come celebrate with us that we are not too much. – Lauren
Ever since I can remember, I’ve kept a secret list, a list of the things that I’d like to change about myself. And always, always at the top of that list: my emotions.
Because ever since I can remember, I’ve felt like my emotions have been out of control. I’ve always laughed too hard, cared too deeply, cried too often. Always. Everything I did had feeling, emotions coming from my very core, every joy and hurt realized deep in my soul. No one ever told me outright, but in some way I always felt set apart from my friends – though they obviously had feelings, they never seemed to be overcome by them like I was. Everything and everyone affected me. At first it was okay; I was only a child, a child with what my mother called a special heart. But suddenly I grew up, and my special heart started to feel less and less like a treasure and more and more like trash.
And so one night I made a decision, a secret agreement: I’m too much.
Three words. Three little words, the smallest lie, planted in my heart. The lie didn’t stay small; it quietly grew and grew and grew, manifesting into a whole forest of distortion. I wasn’t just too much, I was hypersensitive, I was dramatic, I was hysterical. I couldn’t trust any emotion I had because I was convinced a part of my heart was broken, defective. Even though I had been a Christian my whole life, I began to simultaneously follow this ‘too-much’ faith, a faith that I believed with my whole entire heart. It veiled everything I saw, everything I did, everything I felt. Instead of every emotion being beautiful, I saw all my emotions as being ugly, something I had to hide from everyone.
That’s not to say I became emotionless. A completely irrational fear, I believed that the only way people would love me was if I only allowed them to see me in small quantities, with the correct amount of feeling. Every time an emotion –good or bad – came up, I just desperately tried to stifle it, contain it in a pretty little box. And if I couldn’t control them, if my emotions became too big and I was vulnerable in any way, I would mentally berate myself without mercy: Jilly, you shouldn’t be so _____. “Shouldn’t” became the god I followed, and I followed his every rule ever so faithfully.
But then I studied abroad in Granada, Spain, for a semester last year. And in my first two months away, the life I had so carefully constructed began to fall apart. In just two short months, my boyfriend broke up with me and immediately found a new girlfriend, my cousin died in a terrible car accident a couple days before she would’ve started college, and my two very best friends struggled to survive, one battling severe OCD, the other falling into a two-and-a-half week coma after a grand mal seizure. For a girl who worked so hard to contain her emotions, I was completely overwhelmed. A whole ocean away, I cannot even begin to describe to you the depth of crippling desolation I experienced, how absolutely helpless and alone I felt. My special heart was struggling to burst out of its pretty prison, and I was struggling to keep it caged. My world literally became too much, and suddenly my ‘too-much’ faith wasn’t making any sort of sense.
It shouldn’t make sense. The veil I looked through for so long was thrown off, and I began to truly see the blatant lie I was functioning under. It wasn’t that I was just hiding my true self from everyone I loved, I was trying to hide it my very own Father. Isn’t that so silly? Quietly, God began whispering the truth: I’m never too much for Him. God made us for relationship, for emotion. A perpetual good girl, I always read my Bible and tried to understand and implement what it said, but in Spain, I began to read it in a whole new way: instead of finding a faith full of rules, I found a faith full of feeling.
Jesus was FULL of emotion, and he never held any of them back. He was joyful (Luke 21:10), he was righteously angry (Matt. 21:12), he was overcome with sadness (Luke 19:41). The whole Bible, every single book, displays people filled with feeling, trying to figure out how to live in this terribly fallen world. David pours out his heart, Jeremiah grieves, Paul is desperate to bring people to salvation.
The problem, I discovered, wasn’t that my emotions were too much. The problem was that I wasn’t bringing them to God. In a certain sense, I was right: my emotions ARE too much for me. But that does NOT mean they are too much for God. I dishonor my Father when I try to hide them, when I hate my heart instead of celebrating the way He made me. My heart – your heart – is beautiful to God. What I feel, how much I feel – that is His workmanship. Do I still think emotions can be dangerous? Absolutely. But I believe when I’m honest with myself and more importantly, when I’m honest with God, He will save me from that danger.
When I claim Jesus as my Savior, my heart is good. It is the wellspring of life!
Even though it was the most difficult time in my whole 22 years, my time in Spain didn’t destroy me – it saved me. It’s been extremely exhausting, but every day, I uproot the trees in my forest of self-hate. I’m still learning.
But I’ve abandoned my ‘too-much’ faith and embraced the One who reminds me every day of His unfailing love, that my heart is indeed a special heart, emotions and all.
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