Emotional vulnerability

Act I

During Christmas break, I spent some extended time with the Lord to get my head straight again. As I prayed, I thought again about the two sides to my personality that have been relevant recently.

  • The emotionally vulnerable mode, in which I can sense the power and presence and reality of God
  • The tough, task-oriented mode in which I am not particularly interested in relationships with anyone, including God, but in which I can get lots of things done

I came to the tentative conclusion that in order to keep both aspects balanced in my life, I needed to schedule specific times to deliberately open myself up to God in emotional vulnerability. I decided that my quiet times (devotional times) each day were the perfect place to do this. I expected to have to learn how to put the toughness back on again afterwards, so that I could go out into life and get things accomplished.

Act II

When I tried the plan out, though, it didn’t go very well. The last week before vacation ended was spiritually rough. On the one hand, I found it really hard to be motivated to do anything in preparation for the next semester. On top of that, I found myself full of irrational fears about getting started with anything. (That happens to me every so often.)

On the other hand, though, when I went back to God to bare my soul before Him, rather than being nourished or recharged by the relationship, He seemed particularly distant. I felt almost abandoned spiritually.

Act III

As I started getting back to work, I had to just shift my focus and start moving forward on stuff with courage and determination. When that happened, my sense of abandonment disappeared, and I regained spiritual confidence. So at this point in my life, I guess that being tough is a prerequisite to having an authentic, relational, emotionally open time with God, rather than the other way around.

I don’t know quite how to interpret all this. Somehow, I expected this:

emotional openness before God  ↔   toughness facing the world

(relational orientation)                          (task orientation)

Instead, I found this:

emotional openness before God  →

withdrawal from the battle of life →

feeling spiritually isolated

How that connects with being emotionally open during quiet times and then tough and task-oriented afterwards, I’m not quite sure.

Tentative conclusions

I wonder if part of the key for me is to focus on the tasks for the day first and then on my  relationship to God in the context of those responsibilities. Practically speaking, I wonder if I should move my quiet times to the end of the day so I can spend time in confessing my sin and unloading my worries and offering my thanks at the day’s end about everything that happened during the day.

An image taken from Scripture has been sticking in my head: that of God making streams of water flow out of a rock (see Ex 17:6, Deut 8:15, 32:13, Job 29:6, Ps 78:15,20, 81:16, 105:41, 114:8, Is 48:21). Even though I realize it’s absolutely not what those verses meant, I keep imagining my tough mode as being the rock and my relational mode as being the water. The point is, I need to start with the rock and look for God to bring water out of it, instead of starting with the water and looking for a rock in the middle of it.

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