Children Have Feelings. Just Like Grownups.

girl-person-human-femaleMy eight-year old curled up under my arm and sighed an old-soul sigh. “You know, mom, grown ups sometimes think that kids don’t feel things like they do. But we do.”

I was about to correct her: of course I know that kids have feelings. That day had seen no less than three full-blown wailing fits of our youngest Feeling All The Feels about being told no/having to share/not being allowed (another) snack. What is the preschooler life if not Full of Drama?

But that’s not what she was saying. Or maybe, that’s exactly what she was saying. Because I, like other grownups, have a tendency to dismiss the drama and in doing so, sometimes invalidate the real emotion underneath there. “Tantrums get you nothing,” we’ve been telling our kids since they were little. “Whining doesn’t work.”

But my eldest kid has a point: she feels anger. She feels grief. She feels loneliness, and injustice, and jealousy. She feels joy, and compassion, and generosity. Kids may not have language for all those feelings (many adults don’t either), and they may not express them appropriately (again, many adults don’t either) – but I’m making a mistake if I treat my kids as if their responses are attention-getting-behaviors without acknowledging the real emotions that underlie them.

I’ve been trying to pay attention to what my daughter said—that little truth that everyone, no matter how small, has feelings—and the strangest thing has been happening: I’m growing in empathy. My whining preschooler is whining, and the whining is not okay, but somehow it has helped me to think that he might be lonely or frustrated or feeling invisible. My kids are fighting and doors get slammed, and somehow it helps to remember that I also feel irritated and frustrated when I have to share space with others all day long and that this squabble is not just about our kids forgetting polite manners or the house-rules about slamming doors. And, later in the day, when a telemarketer calls just in the middle of the dinner rush, it helps to remember that this person’s sole goal in life is not to sell me a product, but that they have a life and that they have feelings, too. “No, thank you, I’m hanging up now” are better words than what I was tempted to say…

Kids have feelings. Just like grownups. I feel like I should know that, but as with so many things in life – I’m learning it afresh in the real-world of child-raising. And just in case you find the reminder as helpful as I did, I’m sharing it with you.

The very first imperfect witnesses

The very first witnesses to the resurrection were afraid and joyful. If he could them, he can use me even if I'm a hot mess.

Our small group spent some time studying Matthew 28 last night: the dramatic account of Mary and Martha trembling before an angel dressed in lightning. They had been looking for Jesus’ body, and the angel comforted and redirected them: “He is not here. Come and see where they laid him. Go and tell the others and tell them to go to Galilee.”

Matthew tells us that the women ran: afraid yet filled with joy.

A few verses later, having heard the women’s account and traveled up to Galilee, Jesus appeared to the 11 disciples. Matthew tells us that when they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.

Had you noticed this before: the very first witnesses to the resurrection were one hot mess of emotion: fearful and yet overjoyed. The inaugural words of the Great Commission were spoken to a group with decidedly mixed responses: some all-out worshipping, but others seriously questioning.

I am so struck by this thought – that from the very first, the gospel was entrusted to individuals and groups who were a bit of a tangled mess. They didn’t have it all together. They had mixed motives, lots of questions. The Lord’s angel didn’t say to the women: “now calm down and let’s be reasonable – and once you have it all figured out, then I’ll entrust you with this change-the-course-of-history message.” No, the angel, knowing they were still tangled and terrified, still entrusted the message to them.

Jesus knew that in his group of disciples, some of them were having a worshipful “aha!” moment, while others were still very much on the fence.. and yet he didn’t limit his commission and say “Now, those of you who are doubting – these words are not for you. Not yet, anyway.” I am struck that he commissioned them all anyway, knowing that they were not the first (not would they be the last) to feel both faith and uncertainty at the same time.

And it occurs to me that if He didn’t require the very first witnesses, and his very closest disciples to have it all together in order to be entrusted with the Most Important Message Of All…

… he doesn’t need me to have it all together in order to use me, either.

We can be both anxious and joyful, worshipful AND doubtful, – and still be witnesses.

“I do believe, help me in my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

“Not that we are competent in ourselves… but our competence comes from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)