what if I just paused

My heart was racing as I opened my phone contacts and tapped his name furiously.
How. dare. he. The nerve. What. the heck. 
The fury had seeped into my fingers and they were shaking as I paced the floor, probably to stop me from kicking something. I pressed my thumb and my index finger into my eyelids, willing the angry tears to stay where they were. 

How many moments have I had like this in my marriage. Where a tsunami of emotion rises to the surface and I lose control. Control of my feelings, of my thoughts, of my actions, of my words. The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. (James 3:5)
There’s been moments in friendships too, where I’ve let bitterness block grace, and built a wall from past hurts or misgivings. We hurry through the motions, and the emotions, the reactions and inactions and we don’t deal. 
Fights are fast and furious, nothing is reigned in, and your heart pounds with wild temper.
Nothing about this is pretty. White heat and impulse is not what I’ll be ruled by, thank you very much. 

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips. 
Psalm 141:3

In over 12 years of marriage, and many more of friendships, I’ve learned just how much misery can be avoided by slowing down.
By taking deep breaths instead of using those breaths to hurl accusations. 
By touching the brakes on the swelling tide of emotion and examining what’s swirling around in my heart. What are you there for? What are you telling me? What is the truth in this situation? 
Deep slow breaths, and the kind of self talk you need to get you to [metaphorically] put the gun down/step down from the bridge or [literally] hang up from making that call.

“Our five senses activate an emotional response almost immediately, but if we don’t take the time to process them, the unprocessed emotion will dominate.” Dr Caroline Leaf

Maybe that’s why God tells us to pray without ceasing. So that when we become unglued, we can lift our eyes, and the ugly emotions cannot dominate.
When I’m in a posture of prayer, I can go straight to Him with my anger, with my angst, with my anxiety, with whatever emotional tide is threatening to cause me to lose my footing and I can be still and know that He’s in control. This prayer from Psalm 61 is often on my lips when I’m in the midst of an overwhelming moment:

Hear my cry, O God;
Listen to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You,
when my heart is overwhelmed and 
weak;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than
I [a rock that is too high to reach
without Your help].
For You have been a shelter and a refuge
for me, 
A strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your
wings. 
Psalm 61:1-4 (Amp)

There’s a beauty in being raw, and messy and wearing your heart on your sleeve, 
but that beauty dissipates when we cannot control our tongues, when faith is not our posture, and when we react impulsively instead of being slow to speak. 

Slow. Still. Breathe.
When the emotion fades, most times the circumstance is not quite as bad as we originally thought. 

Jesus, please guard my lips. Help me to set a watch over the door of my mouth so that nothing coming out will cause hurt, or regret. Help me to slow my thoughts, take them captive and allow You to filter out what doesn’t belong in my heart or mind. Let me walk in a posture of rest, of faith, and ceaseless prayer, knowing that You, my rock, are in control. Amen. 

 

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