Even Jesus wanted some emotional freedom

Mar 28, 2016 by

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My life, so common it disappears. And sometimes, even music cannot substitute for tears. — Paul Simon, “Cool Cool River”

Becoming a parent meant sacrificing my time, energy and general well-being for the good of my children. I expected that; it is a privilege I accept.

Sarah Kehrberg


I did not anticipate the loss of my emotional autonomy.

Sometimes I want to be grumpy and slam the pots and pans about. I may need a moment (or several) to mope or wallow in annoyance.

There are days I long to lie down on the couch, turn on some appropriately maudlin music and cry. Not because of a specific grievance or hurt so much as a general weariness of heart — a fatigue in the bones that is inexplicable, but real all the same.

I know that to cry would release the knot in my chest, the anger churning in my stomach. I also know it is an indulgence I cannot afford.

For a child, tears are largely rooted in the negative: fear, pain or anger. When I do sneak away for a few minutes to weep, my children notice my puffy eyes and splotchy face. They ask, “What’s wrong, Mommy?” with that subtle panic in their voice. Or worse, they don’t ask, but shift their eyes away, pretending they don’t see, pretending they aren’t worried.

One afternoon when my patience was basically nonexistent, my daughter came to me and said, “I just feel like you don’t want us here. Like we’re in your way.”

Children don’t appreciate being abandoned — even if only emotionally. They have a security-radar that is infallible. After all, their survival depends on it.

I’m in no way glorifying bad behavior (of which I admittedly have much to repent). However, I’ve found that letting a “mood” linger often allows it to pass away quicker.

Why am I not allowed to be emotionally unstable, unavailable, immature or insecure at times? Bearing children did not make me any less human.

Praise be to God, my Savior was human as well. He was sad, tired, frustrated and annoyed. If I feel pressure to have my act together, I can’t imagine the weight Jesus carried.

I am grateful to the writers of the Gospels for mentioning those not infrequent times when Jesus went off to be alone with God. In my youth I figured he was praying for Peter’s sore throat, or maybe getting the game plan for the next day.

Now I imagine he, like the rest of us mortals, was in desperate need of emotional freedom.

Like Jesus, I actively seek to be alone with God. Otherwise, the great Deceiver is ever eager to join the party, whispering lies in my ear.

For me the lie is always a variation of, “No one has it as bad as you.” I am continually amazed at the seductiveness of this ridiculous assertion. Why is self-pity and ingratitude so attractive?

Luke wrote that Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” I cannot know exactly what Jesus was doing in his imposed isolation, but I do know that prayer takes many forms.

Could it be that now and again Jesus fled his life and kicked a couple of clods of desert dirt muttering, “Why me?” Maybe he shook his fist at the sky or paced up and down a mountainside nervously.

Maybe, now and again, he just collapsed in his Father’s arms and hung his head and cried — because he was tired, because he was weak and worn, because it simply felt good.

Sarah Kehrberg lives in Swannanoa, N.C., and attends Asheville Mennonite Church.

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