Stay On My Side Tonight
Would you like to hear the saddest song in the world?
With a tap on the screen, a memory so strong, so painful, so heartbreakingly beautiful was created, I wouldn’t think of it again for years…
Emotional memory is a strange thing. We are taught about memory and the act of recalling information to pass our exams at school. We are taught about physical hurt the first time we accidentally-on-purpose touch the stove-top hot plate. But emotional hurt? Emotional memories? This is something I was never taught, wasn’t aware of, yet a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.
The other day a friend sent me a song and in an instant I was unwittingly ripped open. The song triggered an emotional memory long since buried, and before I even realised what was happening, this Memory’s hand burst from the earth, clawed its way to the surface of my waking mind and limped toward me. Fear, heartbreaking grief, white hot pain shot through me and I couldn’t breath; my heart failed its regular rhythm like a skip on a record player in the early morning hours of a raging party in the nineteen seventies.
Racing home, bursting through the door, I let out the flood of ancient tears and mourned for that which was lost. I grieved for the woman in that room listening to that song, and all that she would go through. I grieved for the hollowness she would feel. The heart-soaring happiness one day and the earth-shattering hopelessness the next. I grieved for the day her dreams would be reduced to ash at her feet, the dying flames lingering in the blue of her eyes as she fell to her knees and wept. I cried and cried those ancient tears, until my body ached and fell limp upon the bed.
If there is one thing I’ve learn’t these last few years, its that our emotions carry such pregnant weight with them that they’re too important to push aside. The act of leaning into what hurts us, leaning into the awkwardness, or the fear which holds us back, is soul work necessary for maturity, healing and growth. And the most incredible thing is that we are not alone in this work. We are not left stranded in the desert places wandering hopelessly toward the mirage on the horizon panting for water. No. We are taken by our right hand and lead by a God who knows pain as intimately as we do.
Jesus isn’t a God who ran from the human condition, but rather emptied Himself to embrace it. He didn’t run when He trembled before the enormity of the Cross, instead kneeling in the garden sweating blood and praying to the Father to strengthen Him. He didn’t run when he was betrayed three times by his friend, instead restoring that same man on a beach over a brunch of fish. Jesus isn’t a God who runs when life gets messy and emotions overrun us. No. He stays, He strengthens, He leads because He knows.
I give you permission to mourn. I give you permission to cry, to be sad, to be confused and to feel hurt, especially when you don’t know why you’re feeling these emotions. I give you permission to feel, and to feel deeply, after all, you are made in the image of a God who feels.
Emotional memory is a strange thing. It has the capacity to lie dormant for years, and then jump out and surprise you when you least expect it. It has the capacity to overwhelm us, weighing us down like a wet blanket cast around our shoulders. But remember, we have been given the ability to move through it, to heal from it, to embrace it, honour it. Everyone experiences emotional memories and none of us a ready for their arrival. Strength is discovered when you stand face to face with your Memory, and walk with it through the graveyard of your hurts, crying, mourning, and finally, laying flowers upon the headstone.
Today is the day to lay flowers in the graveyard of your hurts.