Several years ago, I went to see a therapist, and she gave me a sheet full of adjectives that looked like this:
To use a word from the chart, I was baffled! It took years to realize that this wasn’t a vocabulary lesson but a valuable practice. Too often we don’t realize what on earth we’re feeling — much less why we’re feeling that way or whether the feeling is the most appropriate response for our circumstance.
I thought of this emotion identification practice on Easter Sunday when reading John 20:15-16, which describes Jesus’ encounter with Mary after his resurrection from the tomb:
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher.”
I love that Jesus doesn’t just say “Stop weeping” but rather: “Why are you weeping?” For an answer, let’s take a look at the chart…crushed, devastated, hopeless, fearful, frantic, the list of applicable words goes on and on. Jesus had died a terrible and public death, Mary went to visit his burial site, and it had seemingly been vandalized.
Mary identifies a sense of loss, grief, worry. Again, Jesus’ response isn’t just “Stop worrying so much! I’m right here!” but rather: “Mary!”
Her name. It’s him. Clearly, she can stop worrying so much. Clearly, he’s right here.
Jesus doesn’t instruct us to stop weeping; he enables us to stop weeping.
After the betrayal, beating, and death of Good Friday, Jesus identifies with every sad word on the list from crushed to condemned. So he has no problem with the sad words that we identify.
But, after the resurrection of Easter, Jesus also identifies with every joyous word on the list. So he invites us to consider ourselves “loved” and “uplifted” as well.