In the aquatic lingo of emotions, I think most people would generally describe me as a decorative lake, like one of those you might find in a suburban housing development. Placid. Still. No big waves, not a lot of excitement for water skiers. Just a body of water.
But lately, I’ve begun to feel a bit more like the ocean, waves ebbing and flowing, waters that are at times turbulent and at times peaceful (did you know “Pacific” means peaceful?). Sometimes high tide, sometimes low tide. Sometimes extreme spring tides.
That’s a lot of variation for someone who’s emotionally used to being an unremarkable, man-made, landlocked lake!
I don’t mean that I’ve been experiencing a violent variety of emotions lately, but rather a depth and intensity of emotion that has been uncommon for me in most seasons of life.
This current experience of the emotion ocean, I think, is a result of journeying through life with some people who are in the midst of difficult situations. I currently have two friends who are suffering amidst the hardships of some really strained interpersonal dynamics, one at work and the other within a family. Hearing about their experience–by email, Skype, and face-to-face–has enabled me to enter into their experience and feelings in an uncommon way, and my own response and feelings are equally uncommon.
I have teared up at their pain. Been roused to play the “big brother” card and stirred up to go knock some heads. I have lamented their suffering. Sought to offer hope and comfort.
And all of these are coming from a place of depth and authenticity within me. They’re not being manufactured as the appropriate responses to the situations that I’m aware of, but there is a reality of relationship that’s calling forth waters from the deep. And they are flowing.
I suppose this situation could be unsettling for some. But I think this is exactly where I’m supposed to be in my own growth and development. A few weeks ago, I wrote several posts about searching for passion. Honestly, when I wrote those, I had in mind the discovery of a task, a project, a hobby, a goal that would awaken within me a deep reservoir of energy and excitement.
But perhaps I was looking for the wrong thing.
Perhaps the answer to my passion pursuit wasn’t to be a to-do list. Rather, it appears that part of that passion is surfacing through people. A passion for others, to relate to others, to connect with them, to sympathize, to empathize (whatever the difference is), to enter in, journey alongside. And to do all of that not out of duty or social convention, but from a deeply rooted desire to care and also a need to respond.
Like the planetary ocean, this internal ocean is perhaps still somewhat unexplored. What are its mysteries? How deep does it go? What incredible beauty, what invaluably abundant resources, what amazing treasures are there beneath the surface?
I don’t yet know. But I think I’m on my way to finding out.