There once was a frustrated, alienated woman who had just enough hope to enter a forbidden place and reach out for a chance at healing. Jesus felt her touch, stopped, turned around and insisted she come forward. In fear and with much trembling, she did. She told her WHOLE truth, 12 years of living as an outcast on the margins of society. When she’d said all she had to say Jesus called her “Daughter” and restored her to community (Mark 5:25-34).
Jesus made room for the woman to tell her whole truth. And she did.
We don’t do that. We rarely make room to hear others, and we rarely tell our whole truth. But when we do…
Talking about what we feel is difficult. More difficult than you may guess. At the Rostered Ministers Gathering I offered two workshops: Hopeful Frustration: Listening to our Emotions and Hopeful Frustration: A Practical Process. The first one was shorter and a bit easier for participants to embrace. The main task was to describe 8 emotions (joy, hope, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, sadness, gratitude, and contentment). Folks quickly discovered the difficulty in describing each one and found that emotions overlap and layer one another.
It was an interesting exercise, but it didn’t have to be deeply personal. The second workshop required much more vulnerability. If participants were willing, it was an opportunity to tell their whole truth about a troubling emotional situation.
I continue to learn a truth Rev. CeCee Mills tried to teach me years ago: Don’t worry about who will show up to a workshop. Whoever is supposed to be there will be there. That was very true for the second workshop. It was a very small group, but they dug deep and told their stories.
Because the group was so small, I had the privilege of being part of these conversations. The process starts with identifying a troubling feeling/situation, reflecting on it, journaling about it and then talking it through with just one person. That person’s sole reason for being there is to help the storyteller hear their own story.
Under frustration is hope, but this time I heard something new. Before hope, there is fear. It sounded something like this: I’m frustrated that what I expected to happen didn’t happen, AND what happened instead scares me because I feel like I’m failing. The brave souls in this workshop named their fears: I am afraid of failing my family. I am afraid of failing my congregation. I am afraid of failing God.
We struggle to accept God’s Grace for ourselves. We believe it, but we don’t always feel it when we hold it next to our failings. We know we miss the mark, and we can’t feel the Grace of God in that moment.
Jeff Chu was one of the keynote speakers for RMG and he reminded us that beauty can show us of God’s Grace. He encouraged us to see the beauty in a single flower brought in from the garden. And to feel the Grace in a snuggle with your dog or cat.
We need those reminders because living in the paradox between knowing that God’s Grace is a Gift with no “deserving” strings attached and our own sense of obligation to our family, our congregation and God – is tough. We fear our failures because we know they can break our relationships with family and congregation, even as we know they can’t break our relationship with God. As Bishop Eaton put it in her keynote at the Rostered Ministers Gathering: “We are deeply loved. We’re still sinners, but we are deeply loved.” Sometimes we fear the sinner will overpower the love. We have a hard time trusting God’s unconditional promise.
We live in this tension, striving for balance as we tilt one way and then the other. Exploring our emotions. Paying attention to our feelings, reflecting on the situation, writing about it, and talking to a trusted friend who can remind you that you are deeply loved can heal us and help us find our hope again.
We can do what Jesus did. We can restore each other with the reminder that we are, always and forever, no matter what, children of God.
If you want me to lead a Hopeful Frustration workshop with your congregation or synod, email me at email@example.com
If you want to know the theory and study behind this work as well as discover an analytic meditation technique to help you – click the free resource link below.