Inside out

megaphones

I didn’t expect to feel like this. Today it seems I am at the mercy of wave after wave of feelings I can’t reconcile with the dialogue I preach to myself. There is a battle going on inside that renders me prickly and weary and confused. It isn’t any one thing, but it is certainly the one thing you can guess. I had no idea how much my feelings would make a play for my heart.

I’ve been, for me, unusually invested in this election across the sea, devouring podcasts and opinion pieces for months in order to wrap my head around it. It’s been so ugly, from every angle, and I am grateful I didn’t have to vote because every choice was far below second, with no notion of best.

In the past 36 hours I’ve been reading, too. Study for my New Testament Exam has been interspersed with every article I can get my mouse on. I’ve read explanations and promises of recriminations, written in outrage, sneering derision and wounded disbelief. I oscillate wildly between those emotions. I take deep breaths to steady myself. Stop catastophising Laura. This isn’t about you! It’s not your country. Not your president. Not your battle. Don’t feed this over-saturated beast.

But I feel something so unexpected, the only way to understand it is to write about it. As a woman who has never, ever genuinely been oppressed, today I feel it. I don’t know if I deserve to feel it, but I do. I fear writing about it. I fear being accused of hysteria or bandwagon-jumping or an emotionalism not based in reality. Maybe those fears are what prompt me to write anyway.

I realise the privilege of never noticing my gender, in the sense of never feeling held back by it. Until today I have never felt like a woman in man’s world, even and especially as a female at a complementarian Theological College. My life has been full of people painting beautiful pictures of how men and women are to co-exist, what it is we can do together, how our differences lead to flourishing. Perhaps only now am I realising how rare that is. Most of the time I roll my eyes at the cries of patriarchy. I read about women re-tweeting misogyny and I think they are brave, but their experience is miles from mine. I don’t identify with the voices who make everything about how hard it is to be a woman.

And then there is this. I feel knocked for six. Because the truth is, it is being a woman that feels different, today. Pushing every policy aside for a minute, it hurts in my heart. And that’s part of the problem. There are so many ways to have the discussion of who should have won, and today I have seen many of them laid out logically and rationally and calmly, but I feel none of those emotions. I hear – and receive – so much of that logic. But it doesn’t change the way I feel.

I feel defeated. I was not #withher but you’d better believe I wasn’t with him either. And the fact that so many were makes me scared and sad. It doesn’t mean I won’t listen to reason. It means that reason isn’t dictating my feelings right now. In this forest of flyover states and deplorables, dark underbellies, qualifications, fact-checking, email servers and bullying, I am tired of the trees. I am tired of anything that attempts to reason or rationalise this mess. It is diabolical. A joke that I can’t laugh at. Against grace, against charity, against fellowship, against unity. I feel utterly beaten down, so please don’t type calmly in your messenger thread without understanding that it feels different to be a woman today than it has ever felt. At least to me.

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus explains to the religious elite of his day that “the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart”. I am trying not to say very much today (ha!), because what is bubbling up inside of me is fearsome. I write comments that I erase before posting. They are angry, and emotional, and weaponised. I remember Paul Tripp, shaking a bottle of water, and asking why water came out of it. So many people, he explains, answer that it’s because of the shaking, but the deeper answer is that water was inside in the first place.

I recognise that. This unease, unrest, wellspring of grief and fear comes from somewhere. It reveals a heart that is fickle, prone to wander still. In the first line of this post I wrote about preaching to myself, because that’s the other desperate dialogue going on right now. Be still my soul. Do not be afraid. And in God’s kindness this voice will prevail, because it knows something true.

This mess is mess, and we can call it that. There is no mandate to dress it up or make it seem more palatable. The truth of the gospel means we can look at brokenness, yes, even this brokenness, and call it what it is. Beyond us. But not beyond Him.

I run to this refuge, wanting to burrow in and close my eyes while the storm rages on. I run to this refuge, because it is the only hope today, for man, woman and child. God came down to dwell in this mess, and to deal with it. Jesus, God-with-us, went to the cross because of this mess. Not an outside mess caused by being out of touch, or a lack of education, but the inside mess of every one of our hearts, which overflow with opposition to God. I am broken, and in my brokenness I cannot fix a groaning world. But Jesus’ death paid for my sin—my brokenness—and he is ushering in a kingdom which will be unlike any gilt-edged kingdom of this world. One of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).

I can’t wait. That is an understatement today. I long for his appearing, and at the same time, there is solace for this restless heart while I wait. I am not determined by my feelings or at the mercy of my passions. My God can still this heart of mine, which is only ever at rest in him. And so while today feels different, it is also, ultimately, just like every other day. A day in which I need Jesus every hour, and in which, by His Spirit, He is here.

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