I wasn’t drunk.
At the altar of spent Kleenex, streaked with the ashes of mascara, I wasn’t drunk.
Neither was Hannah, gushing out her grief at the Tabernacle.
The reaction of Eli the priest then — dismissive, condemning, wrongly conclusive — is now the reaction of the Church to emotion.
Dear Church, when I am loud, wild, shocking with my emotions,
I am not drunk.
I am not hormonal.
I am not weak (er than you).
I am emulating Jesus.
Emotions are the women’s realm, say our stereotypes. We gobble up this mindset in our Western Church: “Women are too emotional” and “Good Christians are not emotional” and therefore (shhhh, we only whisper this part), “Women aren’t good Christians."
But this perspective ignores reality. It ignores the full range of emotions God gifted to all of us. It ignores our emotional Jesus.
We the Church ignore our angry Jesus. Whipping cheaters and flipping tables aren’t peaceful actions. Rebuking unbelief and chastising corruption aren’t nice. They’re righteous actions, but they’re not polite.
The anger of people does not produce the righteousness of God, but there is a God-like anger that fights injustice and rescues the lost.
I want the Church to be angry
…when ministers misuse sacrificially given funds for personal comforts
…when leaders worry more about protecting reputations than about protecting victims of sexual abuse
…when the absence of God’s love leads to violations against those made in God’s image
Being angry is part of being like Jesus.
We the Church ignore our sad Jesus. A stoic tear down a cheek may be acceptably masculine in the Western Church, but I think "Jesus wept” means an ugly cry that would embarrass many manly men.
Grief in all its stages is healthy in both men and women, and I want the church to understand this. I didn’t need to ignore a broken heart because "God had a plan," I needed to work through it with my Jesus who also knew a broken heart.
We the Church ignore our jealous Jesus. I’ve read a useful distinction between envy and jealousy: envy is wanting what belongs to someone else while jealousy is protecting what is properly ours. God’s jealousy is right; it desires our faithfulness. In the same way, our jealousy is right when it’s protective of the people who have expressed commitment to us. It’s desiring that they keep those commitments. Greedy envy isn’t an emotion we should cultivate, but we can show righteous jealousy.
We the Church ignore our nurturing Jesus. Tender love is not just for ladies. Jesus longed to gather the people of Israel like a hen gently collects her chicks. He searches for the lost lamb like a shepherd. Fluffy chicks and fuzzy lambs aren’t Easter props or nursery decorations, they’re symbols of the mothering heart of God—gentle, quiet love that both men and women of God can and should embrace.
I want the Church to learn together how to rage like Jesus raged, to sorrow like Jesus sorrowed, and to love like Jesus loved. I want the Church to celebrate my emotions rather than dismissing them. I want the Church to support me in being like our emotional Jesus.
Church, let’s open ourselves to experiencing the depth and width and height of the humanity God has given us! Let’s feel terrible, awesome, frightening emotions. Then let’s learn from Jesus how to act according to holy purposes. Let’s be angry, and sin not. This is hard, but this is what we should be teaching each other.
Give me my heart’s desire, Hannah prayed fervently, by the spirit, mouth moving without sound.
“I’m not drunk,” she told Eli. He finally understood, as I want the Church to understand, and he gave her a benediction that I want the Church to give all of us in our sloppy emotions: "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked.”
Becky Castle Miller is the Managing Editor of Wyn Magazine (wynmag.com), providing resources and hope for mental and emotional healing. She and her husband, with their four kids, are American expats in the Netherlands, helping with an international church. She is part young executive and part five-year-old playing with kittens.