I’ve stopped apologising for being ‘sensitive’ because it fuels my words and enables what I do. I’m mastering the art of defining what this sensitivity means for my life though, because it can quite easily rule me if I’m not careful.
For years, I didn’t understand why I was the way I was… why I felt things deeply, why I was afraid of being too caring or too invested. I didn’t get why things affected me differently than the next person, why someone would experience the same thing and not be moved or upset or hurt. I realised that the heightened sensitivity that I seemed to have towards things, people, and the Holy Spirit, wasn’t normal and it was driving me into deep bouts of depression and anxiety. Instead of just being a ‘sensitive’ person I let my sensitivity have me.
For reasons beyond my control, I lost someone I deeply loved. As a result, I experienced a raw, tender heartbreak like I’d never known before. I felt it all, stronger than ever, deeper than ever. It was like grieving and agony and hurt all at once.
My Sweet, Soft God… He knew my deepest distress and my heart’s desire. And aside from the heartache itself (which is valid and expected) He used this time to show me the dark side of my insight, the danger of this awareness, the disillusionment that ensues when I don’t let Him have my soul. He was warning me about me… showing me what my emotions were truly capable of if I wasn’t careful… He was teaching. Refining. Sanding the edges down.
About a month into this confusing time, I attended a few night-classes at my church. Paul Zaia, a pastor and creative, was taking them and teaching on worship. Not just music but heart position. Life position. These nights would redefine my life in the most honey-like way.
In those sessions I got the revelation and I’m still getting revelation that creatives don’t realise the privilege and power of their gift. Privilege, because this gift of seeing beyond is not entrusted to everyone. Privilege, because we experience life with tender hearts. We arrive at conclusions from battle not theory. We discover truth because it sinks into the cracks of our hearts and makes a home there. We observe and notice and ‘take heed of’ our gut. We get weak knees when we’re asked to share our thoughts. We are agile in our craft and learners through and through. We are both heart on our sleeves people and ones who internalise and analyse detail at great length. We are outward in our insight too, pitching fresh idea, giving voice to the voiceless, letting others in on the secrets and mysteries of God in whatever form that might be.
And this gift has power too. Because this creativity, this sensitivity to interpret the human experience, has the potential to consume us and/or the potential to propel us and others forward. There’s a double entendre to it – power in all its dangerous, serious, consuming, destructive force and power in its potential for strong movement towards a goal, impact on and energy with.
Zaia taught on King David, a deeply sensitive man. He tousled with his life and then he informed his soul about His God, his hope, his salvation. He actually rose in sensitivity and articulation. He practiced the presence of God. How? He learned to play music in the pastures of his father’s land tending to sheep as a boy. He learned the strength of His God when he killed a giant with a slingshot. He learned the potential of pain through unrest turned victory. He learned the voice of God because he leaned in to hear and listen. He knew how quickly things could turn. He realised the weight of his worship, the strength in his words, what it was to sing anyway, to set his affections in the right place. He was a man spilling over in thanksgiving against all opposition.
Until God, I had no idea that this lens I had of the world was meant for helping. It’s up to me to articulate the frailties of humanity not fall victim to them… To hold this delicate humanity with open hands for exploring, navigating, teasing out. And then the Spirit of The Living God breathes on this damaged heart like only He can. And the heart ends up being a lush, leafy, flowering site for shade. For me. For you. Because maybe, just maybe, our human condition is better seen in pain. Maybe, the pain makes the green greener.
And we, in our sensitive nature, the creative lot of us. Who are slightly off-centre, a little bit too emotional for our own good, the ones who take things to heart, we are the same ones who harness this ‘thing‘ for good. We are the ones who demonstrate God’s power… His might. Not because we are strong but because He is.
This ‘heightened sensitivity’ is our greatest liability but also our greatest strength. And when we master the art of using it for good and not self-indulgence, I think we master the art of why we’re here.
I really believe we are to make sense of this life by standing at another angle, by testing the waters in order to tell of them, by navigating our days wisely and curiously, by trusting a bit more fiercely than normal, and by encouraging others to be ok in the skin they’re in. It’s our task to carry the same baton Paul did, when he wrote to the Corinthians from a place of great sorrow and anxiety of heart. Not to cause them pain but to mobilise them in love. So that whoever comes in contact with our work would know the overflowing love we have for them. And more, that God’s love is large yet personal. Astronomic yet close. Immeasurable yet finite.
I’m learning to welcome all these far-flung dreams, deep-reaching fears and unanswered questions. In almost the same breath I’m deciding on a full-fledged, fearless, fierce, big life. ‘Cause however we’re made, straight up the guts, sensitive to the core, traditional, wired, super-chill, we’re all made to do it together. You complement me, I complement you.
So stop apologising for being you. Master you by letting God use your foolish ways, your confused heart, those loose screws to make himself strong, to show himself beautiful, to confound the wise, to bring shade and green to this hurting world.
“AS THE hart pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God. My inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? [John 7:37; I Thess. 1:9, 10.] My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, Where is your God? These things I [earnestly] remember and pour myself out within me: how I went slowly before the throng and led them in procession to the house of God [like a bandmaster before his band, timing the steps to the sound of music and the chant of song], with the voice of shouting and praise, a throng keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God. O my God, my life is cast down upon me [and I find the burden more than I can bear]; therefore will I [earnestly] remember You from the land of the Jordan [River] and the [summits of Mount] Hermon, from the little mountain Mizar. [Roaring] deep calls to [roaring] deep at the thunder of Your waterspouts; all Your breakers and Your rolling waves have gone over me. Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God my Rock, Why have You forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a sword [crushing] in my bones, my enemies taunt and reproach me, while they say continually to me, Where is your God? Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”
Psalm 42:1-11 AMPC