This week I nearly broke the big toe on my left foot and, in the process, was painfully reminded that pushing emotions inside you doesn’t make them go away. They are still there and may come out in unexpected ways. Here’s what happened:
I am the pastor of a church without a building. So we rent space from a local elementary school every Sunday. We rent the cafeteria for our worship service and the media center for our Sunday school and childcare
When I arrived on a recent Sunday morning, a group of people already was meeting in the media center which we had reserved and paid for. The maintenance worker, Bill (not his real name), approached me as I was looking in the media center wondering what was going on. Bill asked me if I would mind using other rooms this morning for our childcare and Sunday school. I was not inclined to since we had paid for and reserved the media center. The media center is the location our regular attenders expect and it is the most visible place for childcare, which is important for visitors.
Bill explained to me that this group had been meeting all weekend for some sort of continuing education. They had somehow come to believe that they had reserved this space and had a right to be there. The previous evening when one of Bill’s coworkers had asked them to move, a conversation had ensued that involved a considerable increase in volume and intensity but, in the end, did not result in the group’s moving. I think you get the picture.
You need to know that I used to be the sort of person who could be intimidated into backing down in a situation like this. Having worked on that weakness over the years, I am not so any more. But at this point, friendship and expediency came into play. It was Sunday morning and our worship service started in less than 90 minutes, so I didn’t have time for a 20-minute conversation to work slowly through whatever was going on. Also, Bill asked me if, because there had already been a big “thing” the night before, I would mind just using a couple of other rooms this morning. Bill is a friend who is flexible with and supportive of our ministry.
So, between the timing involved and Bill’s request, I let it go and moved on. Or so I thought.
Because I snore, I often end up sleeping in a Murphy bed in my office. Such was the case Sunday night. The bed is very low to the ground and there is only a few inches of clearance between the bed and a very sturdy blanket chest to one side of it.
I had a dream early Monday morning that was more than likely my brain continuing to process Sunday morning’s incident — and very nearly resulted in a broken toe.
I was skiing on very short German skis. (Remember, dreams are weird, right?) One of the ski resort employees was on at the bottom of the slope next to me and told me I could not ski on those skis. It seemed quite clear to me that he was really just trying to get me out of their resort. But instead of giving in, I began to argue with him. “There are people on French skis. There are people on snowboards. Why is it just my skis that aren’t allowed on the slopes?” He was not backing down and expected me to do what he said simply because he was the authority. I was not interested in backing down simply because he was the authority so, in the middle of the lodge (we were now inside) packed with people, I yelled, “Who thinks I should be allowed to ski here on my German skis?” Every person raised their hand. That’s when the ski resort employee got so mad he tried to attack me physically.
I’m no fighter, but I have studied a bit of martial arts. When he tried to hit me, I defended myself by kicking him with my left foot. A slight side kick, knee up first then snap the lower leg. Perfectly executed, it did the job.
I don’t know if you have experienced this phenomenon, but sometimes there is a direct correspondence between dream actions and real actions. Many people have had dreams of falling only to wake up and realize they have rolled out of their beds.
In my case, evidently I was sleeping on my side because as I kicked my attacker in my dream, I kicked the blanket chest in real life… hard. I woke up instantly with excruciating pain in the big toe on my left foot. I am now writing on the fourth day from this episode and it still hurts. I feel quite fortunate that I didn’t break my toe.
The moral of the story is simply this: your feelings don’t go away just because you stuff them inside.
Certainly there are times when expediency may trump resolution in the short term. I would make the same decision if I could go back and do it again. And you don’t need to bring up everything with everybody. Often we can just overlook minor offenses. The Bible tells us that is a wonderful thing to do. (Proverbs 11:19)
But if you keep thinking about some incident or relationship, then you need to seek resolution in some way (and that’s a whole subject on its own) rather than just stuffing your feelings inside because, let me tell you, the feelings you have shoved down can surface later in painful ways!