Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tender-heartedness: Blessing or Curse?

Haven't said much on here for the past few days, mostly because I haven't had much to say. But Ruby is napping right now and Toby's in the bathroom so I can't clean it at the moment (and I'm just flat out ignoring the kitchen right now), so I will take a bit of time to blog it up.
I know that it is a medical fact that a woman's body is flooded with hormones from the beginning of the pregnancy to post-partum; hence "baby blues" and the oxytocin bonding at birth, etc. God was very gracious with me, given that I tend towards the depressive side of things, to spare me full-blown post-partum depression. Don't get me wrong: the first few days after Ruby was born were insanely emotional, and the following weeks were not easy, either. But I don't think I succumbed to the depths of depression that many new mothers fall into. Here's the thing, though: I thought that all of those havoc-wreaking hormones were supposed to go away! Ruby's officially been outside of me longer than she was inside of me now, which I'd call very post-partum. Yet I still get very emotional very easily. I cried watching Toy Story 3. It was suspenseful! The toys were about to meet a tragic end and had been betrayed (I'm trying not to spoil it in case anyone out there has not yet seen it). A baby doll feels abandoned. Tears are coming to my eyes just thinking about it. I started crying in the shower the other day just recalling that movie.
It's a movie.
A kid's movie.
WHAT???
Now, I have always been more sensitive than the average person. But I didn't used to be THIS sensitive. I'm pretty sure it is a result of having a child. I see things from a mother's perspective now. When I see a dead possum in the road, the thought comes into my mind, "That possum was some other possum's baby. And what if it's a mama possum with a passel of little possums who will now miss their mama and possibly die because there is no one to take care of them?" (Tearing up again, by the way) I didn't used to think like that. Sometimes it feels unbearable to be this tender-hearted. Allen and other have reminded me that although it feels like a liability, it's also a gift: I certainly would not be as good of a teacher if I didn't care so much about my students. I wouldn't be as good of a mother, not as good of a wife, not as good of a friend. But it just feels frustrating that I can get so upset so easily. You know how some people can't go out in the sun for five minutes without burning (oops, that happens to me, too)? Or after you get your pupils dilated at the eye doctor and regular amounts of light hurt your eyes? That's how it feels to me sometimes.
Of all the things that "set me off", I am extremely sensitive to babies and children being hurt, mistreated, or abandoned. I think that if we could, I would want to adopt a slew of kids. There are many reasons why that would not be possible or prudent at this point in our lives, but I hate the thought of children without loving parents. I utterly despise the institution of killing babies in utero, especially since I've had ultrasounds, heard heartbeats, felt kicking, etc. Yes, I know, it's complicated when the baby was conceived in a woman who isn't able to mother well, but that is a little person in there. Yes, the mother has a choice; it's just a heinous choice. There are other things, too: natural or man-made disasters or war, or animals being hurt, or people getting sick. Yeah, I pretty much get upset at a lot of things.
I was reading the book of Jeremiah this morning, and was somewhat relieved to see that he also seemed depressed a lot of the time. He lived in the weird tension of believing in God's goodness and sovereignty and then seeing all kinds of terrible things befalling all of the people around him and also in the larger world. Consider chapter 20, verses 13-15, 18:
"Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, 'A child is born to you--a son!'...Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?"
He also gets pretty emotional, and his emotions are not without reason. Similarly, the things I get sad about are truly sad things. I'm not getting perversely sad, nor am I hard-heartedly thinking that sad things are not sad. But it is still hard to lament.
You may hear some Christianese phrases (mostly uttered by church ladies) like, "The Lord just laid such a burden on my heart for ____________; I felt so convicted to be praying for them." I kind of got what they were saying, but it seemed a little cheesy. But I don't think it is cheesy now. Jeremiah didn't either: "...His word in my heart is like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." (Jeremiah 20:9b) The Holy Spirit does convict us with things that we need to offer up prayers about. I think that's where my problem is lying. It's not a curse to be tender-hearted, but to try to shut it inside of me and hold it in leads to a cursed existence of being miserable all the time. When I feel overwhelmed by sorrowful things, that's the time when I need to turn it over to God and let Him bear that burden. I will close with quoting a great hymn written by Joseph M. Scriven, "What a friend we have in Jesus"

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.
(You can hear it for yourself here.)