Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!…
… unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.
There is something so very human in these last verses. Here’s everything we’ve suffered. It’s been so long. We understand why it’s all happened, why it’s like this, but maybe it’s enough? Maybe it’s been enough? You could restore us, if you wanted to. Unless, I guess, if you’re still mad.
Are you still mad at us?
But there’s also a bit of a challenge, here. We’ve paid the price. The generations that sinned are gone, and we’re still paying. You reign forever, God. You’re still there, still in control. Are you just going to leave us here? Restore us, unless you aren’t going to. Unless it’s really over. Have you left us? Should we let go?
I don’t know what it is about these last verses, really, that just resonates with me. It’s pleading. It’s baiting. It’s a challenge. It’s desperate.
We are meant to come to God in full honesty, completely open, completely real. We’re meant to feel what we feel and lay it out. Emotions simply are. They rise up in response to our experiences. It’s how we react to them that is important, that is within our control. It is how we acknowledge them, express them, respond to them.
Emotional regulation is something I never heard about growing up, but it’s something we all either learned or didn’t learn from our parents, from our family, from our friends and neighbors. Do you yell and scream and throw things when you’re angry, or do you take a deep breath and use your words? Do you pout and sulk when you’re sad or disappointed, or do you accept the feelings and reframe the situation, making space to process and recover but choosing to move on? Do you bury grief, hide from feelings that are too big or scary, until they bubble up in anger or anxiety, or do you sit with it, suffuse it with hope, and breathe?
You can be honest with your emotions without giving them free rein. It doesn’t have to be complete and utter stoic control or wild dramatic abandon. Specifically, it is possible to acknowledge and communicate your negative emotions without drowning in them. It is something I am still learning, to be honest. And God doesn’t want our cleaned up public faces, the masks we put on when we’d rather not be quite so vulnerable as raw emotions leave us. He knows our hearts anyway; he knows what we’re feeling better than we do.
He wants us to be honest, because it is only when we are honest that real connection can be made. It is only when we open our hearts to him, ugly pieces an all, that the Spirit can really work within us. And it is only when we are truly open with God that we learn what real security, real peace, feels like, because it is only when we are fully open that we can be truly filled.