By Anthony Casperson
The episode “Nevermore,” from the 2003 season of the Teen Titans cartoon, deals largely with the character of Raven. A dour superheroine with magic powers, Raven fights alongside her fellow Titans. This time, it was against a villain known as Dr Light.
Verbal jabs on the part of the villain infiltrate the mind of the young heroine. Her anger gets the better of her. And in a rage, dark tendrils come out of her cloak, drawing the villain into it. As her teammate Robin talks her down from the anger, she comes to her senses and releases the villain, who is much the worse for wear because of the ordeal.
After they return home, Raven goes off to be alone. But Beast Boy and Cyborg, two more of her teammates, want to talk with her to make sure she’s alright. They enter her room only to find a mirror. It happens to be a magic mirror connected to Raven’s psyche.
The pair search for Raven only to discover several aspects of her personality, called emoticlones. Through a few twists and turns for the storyline, Beast Boy, Cyborg, the real Raven, and the emoticlones come to face the anger emoticlone.
Four red glowing eyes emanate from under the hood of this aspect of the heroine. It morphs into a version of Raven’s father, Trigon, a demonic creature who cares nothing for the young girl other than what power he can gain through her. He hates his daughter and hates her desire to use her powers for the betterment of people. She is worthless to him.
Though Raven may feel alone, her friends Beast Boy and Cyborg stand beside her, along with all of the emoticlones, who join with her to take on this dark illusion of her father. In this moment, Raven realizes that she’s not alone. Her family might have rejected her. There might still be a lot of pain in her life. But the fear of rejection has been quelled. And with the true emotion behind Raven’s anger stopped for now, the power of her anger subsides and becomes reabsorbed into the full spectrum of her emotions.
What Raven needed was to figure out what the root of the problem was. And once this root was discovered, she could move forward in wholeness. But in order to truly handle the problem in the teen’s life, the other thing she needed was some time to reflect on her emotional state. The entire episode was needed to come to this resolution. And we all know that TV shows solve problems far more quickly that what’s needed in real life.
It sounds good. All we need is some time to reflect and then we can deal with our psychological issues. But it’s never really that easy. I came to realize this truth during the past week. For me, the problem was that I didn’t have the time to reflect in order to discover the truth behind my emotional state.
For quite a while now, I’ve been dealing with physical pain that no one seems to know where it comes from, which irritates me at the worst times. In addition, I’d failed to finish the book I wanted to write during the summer (though over 14,000 words for a small non-fiction book is nothing to laugh at), and that left me frustrated at myself. A lot of changes in work (which is normal for the beginning of the school year) created angst in me because I could use some stability when already frustrated. And trying to keep up with the schedule for other parts of my life (such as the website, D&D, and a few other things) drained me because of the other stressors. And several other events caused various emotions to reign unchecked.
I tried to let them go. I forgave what I could. I told myself that my self-worth isn’t based off of how much I write, or whom I disappoint. I pushed on with life and continued forward. But I still struggled with the emotions continually erupting in me.
This past Sunday, I heard a sermon about anger. The pastor spoke of how people’s emotions often turn to anger. It’s not that we’re angry, but our emotions become anger because we don’t know what else to do with them. I agreed. I was living that in the moment. I needed to not be angry when there was a root to the anger found in other emotions. So I put anger aside, but it kept wanting to pop up.
After church that day, I recorded a sermon for the website’s series about leadership from the book of Judges, which has poured over into Ruth as well. I spoke words that I had written a couple weeks ago, and they spoke back to me. I preached about bitterness. How when bitterness creeps into our lives it blinds us to the work of God that should be fully evident to us. And I cried. When it comes time to upload that sermon in 3 weeks, you’ll probably be able to hear the tears as I get to the conclusion. I needed to put bitterness aside. And so I tried, but up it’s ugly head came every time I thought I’d beat it back.
Monday arrived. I was driving the bus. No one else was in there with me because it was the very beginning of my route, but I was not alone. My thoughts, my emotions, my struggles all vied for my attention. Tired of putting them aside or beating them back, I let them play out.
Throughout the day, thinking during the times that I was alone, I discovered the root of the emotions: fear of rejection. I should’ve known. That fear has long been the base of issues in my life.
I feared being rejected by people in general because I haven’t done much with the many gifts God has given me. I feared being rejected by those who read these blogs because I know that consistency is important in such endeavors. I feared being rejected by those for whom I work because if I can’t handle what I’m expected to, what reason do they have to keep me employed. I feared being rejected by large categories of others for many various reasons.
All the anger, all the bitterness, all the emotions arose because of the fear that I have long struggled with. And I didn’t notice before then because I was too busy trying to outpace the emotion. Focusing on accomplishing a plethora of tasks in a myriad of different directions, trying to prove that I’m worth not being rejected, I didn’t have the time to reflect on my emotional state.
I decided then, that I needed to take some time to reflect. Yeah, I had a ton of stuff to do. And yeah, I still had to go to work because I have responsibilities. But the time I normally spent writing, planning, world-building, and so many other things, I set aside for a day. What I needed was time to reflect.
It sounds easy. But it’s not. Those of us who’ve spent much time around the bible know about the Sabbath. God commanded Israel to take a day off. Oftentimes, though, we look at it only as rest from our physical labors. It’s a way to let our bodies heal. But the rest also allows us a chance to reflect. Reflect on God. Reflect on life. Reflect on our emotions.
This reflection is important to our well-being. It’s a way to let our psyche, our soul, heal. It allows us the chance to take an honest look at how we’re doing. And it gives God a chance to point out his work in our lives. This reflection is an act of worship. It’s an act of showing God how much he’s worth to us, and how much we’re worth to him.
I want to challenge us to take time this week, and every week, to rest not only for our bodily health, but also for our emotional health. Reflection is important, but making the time to reflect is all the more important. Without it, we might just become so unaffixed to our emotions that they take on a mind of their own.