How to be human, emotionally…

“How to Be Human” offers an eleven:eleven-style take on the 7-week churchwide worship series, Facing Life’s Storms.

Kintsugi is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery. Rather than attempting to repair broken ceramic pieces with a hidden adhesive, the Kintsugi technique employees a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.

Once completed, the beautiful, asymmetrical seams give a reflective glint in the conspicuous breaks and cracks giving a unique appearance to each “repaired” piece. In a real sense, what was thought of as broken was really only transformation and becoming something more distinctive and beautiful.

I think we can look at our emotional life in much the same way. Often we feel overwhelmed, “broken,” in our emotional life — ridden with anger, guilt, sadness, shame.

Emotions sometimes leave us feeling stuck in patterns of brokenness or chaos, and the emotional chaos is often fueled by the fear (the anxiety) that we can’t escape being broken. We can look around and see what complete, whole, emotionally healthy people look like all the time and we feel the angst of not having that same contentment and emotional stability.

In reality, most people are struggling emotionally at one time or another. And most of us are living at the edge of what anthropologist and author Mary Catherine Bateson calls “improvising life.”

The problem for many of us is a problem of sight. We see brokenness when God invites us to see becoming.

In the book of Job, an ancient story exploring the nature of suffering and God’s place in it, Job’s friends try to explain the causes of suffering and suggest ways he might escape his emotional pain. Toward the end of this excruciating journey for Job, and for us as the readers, God invites Job to do something different.

Look to nature as a mirror. Ask the trees and animals. Seek the depth of the seas for clues to life’s improvisation.

Life isn’t about being “fixed.” Life is always about becoming, evolving into something distinctive and beautiful.

Emotions remind us where we are at the moment — if we are paying attention to them. But we don’t have to allow them to determine what we are; only that this is where we are at the moment.

Like nature, like the presence and power of love to creatively transform life, we are always at the invitational edge of opportunities to improvise life. The way the Gospel reminds us to do that is through love.

This Sunday, we continue our series How to Be Human, as we explore our emotional life and intelligence in the context of the improvisational nature of love. The author in I John writes, “we are made in and of love as God, the source of our being, is love . . . and that perfect love casts out all fear.” Let’s take a look at some stories and techniques, not for repairing our emotional life, but improvising new ways of being in the world as we learn to love our emotions. The band will help guide us with songs from Crosby, Stills and Nash, Erika Luckett, and the Alman Brothers, and we’ll have a visit from Shakespeare. I hope to see you Sunday!

Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven

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