Permission to Feel

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Tamara has suffered since birth, having had dozens of surgeries with varying degrees of torture, but with very limited success. Like the guy on those anti-smoking commercials, this precious teenager has to plug the hole in her throat with her finger in order to speak. Like many young sufferers I’ve met, she has an incredibly sweet and indomitable spirit about her.

Following one of my catharsis-filled homilies, she approached me in the parking lot. Covering the opening in her trachea, she eked out, “Thank you for sharing your story and helping me know it’s okay to feel the way I do at times. Sometimes I just get angry at God.” I thanked her for her comment, got in my car, and then cried all the way home. Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission to feel what we feel.

I don’t think that God is as offended as we might think by our honest-hearted rantings, the ones plump with pain. Emotions are part of the human condition. They’re neither good nor bad, they just are. Granted, some emotions are more pleasant than others. Give me glad over mad or sad any day. He’s the One who installed in us the “feelings chip” when he made us in his likeness. He’s a God who feels and he made us to be feelers.

What matters is not how I feel, but what I do with how I feel—how it affects my journey and how I affect those with whom I journey. Whether I am angry, sad, terrified or worried, I was endowed with these capacities at birth. They’re reactions to human circumstances, and if I’m human I’ll experience them. But how will I deal with these feelings? How will I keep them from bullying me?

– Originally published in The Other End of the Dark: A Memoir About Divorce, Cancer, and Things God Does Anyway

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