I was five years old, and my family was on vacation in Florida when I heard my parents talking about a toll bridge. Except I didn’t hear “toll bridge.” I heard “troll bridge” – and I was scared.
Being scared quickly escalated to petrified when my sisters – on either side of me in the backseat – began sharing troll stories. I was scared enough just thinking of the trolls in Three Billy Goats Gruff, and those were drawings. When my sisters started describing the menacing, vengeful trolls of their twisted imaginations, I couldn’t take it any longer.
We had to cross the toll bridge, but I didn’t have to look. I crouched on the floorboard and tried to slide as far under the seat as possible.
The trolls didn’t get me, and my now apparent fear got my mom’s attention. She reprimanded my sisters, but it didn’t do much good. They’d seen the fear in my eyes, and they were going to carry this as far as they could.
Each night in the hotel, two of us would share a bed, Mom and Dad would get a bed, and the other girl slept on a rollaway bed. I loved the rollaway bed, so I looked forward to my nights. As we approached the hotel later in the toll bridge day, whichever sister had the rollaway assignment for the night asked if I wanted to trade nights. Of course, I did! At least something was going right in my day.
I should have known. My sister didn’t offer to exchange nights out of the goodness of her heart. It was a conspiracy to torment me. You see, the rollaway would be placed in the open space by the balcony overlooking the ocean. A beautiful view – until my sisters started sharing stories of how the trolls trudged out of the ocean every evening looking for little girls to eat and how trolls ate the first girl they saw, which would obviously be the one closest to the ocean. I think they also told me something twisted like the only way the troll wouldn’t get me is if I was really still and didn’t say anything about being scared. A slick way to get me not to tell Mom and Dad I was terrified!
I remember what that room looked like in the light and in the dark, what the crashing waves sounded like, and what my sisters’ occasional muffled giggles sounded like. I didn’t know if I would survive the night, but of course, I did. I don’t know if Mom or Dad put a stop to the torment or not, but I don’t remember any more nights of terror. The next day wasn’t as scary in the daylight, and I enjoyed beach time.
A half dozen years later, I opened a gift from my sisters. It was an ugly troll. Very funny.
I learned a lot about emotions through my troll bridge experience.
- Emotions can be stirred up even when imagination doesn’t match reality. My fear was real even though the object of my fear was not.
- My emotions don’t always match someone else’s in the same situation. While I was fearful, my sisters were (deviously) joyful.
- Emotional responses can make me vulnerable. I began to believe things that didn’t make sense, and my imagination exploded.
Emotions saturate Scripture. God is an emotional God – not in the same way we talk about an emotional woman or emotional person. But God is certainly aware of the runaway emotions we’re referring to when we put a negative spin on emotions. We can’t escape God’s presence. That means he sees and hears alongside us, including our (often messy) emotions. And if we let him, God will replace those untruthful messages we’ve learned about emotions along the journey of life with the truthful messages reflecting his character, will, and commands.
Dig into Pure Emotion, our first study in the Internet Cafe Bible Counter, beginning soon. Grow closer to God with a group of women. We’ll get to know God better as we commit to reflecting him more and more on a daily basis. Let’s dig into, reflect upon, and live out God’s Word.
Susan Lawrence is passionate about encouraging and equipping women through writing and speaking. She’s the author of two Bible studies, Pure Purpose and Pure Emotion. She loves dark chocolate and long walks, especially when her toes are in the sand. Check out Susan’s words of encouragement and send her a note at her blog or Facebook.