In order to live into our true selves we must learn to identify, process, and respond to our emotions. I’ve often heard two different messages about emotions: We either deny them because they’re fleeting and untrustworthy, or we elevate them and allow them to become the dominant force in our lives. EHS invites us to a middle path: We can pay attention to our emotions and learn from them without letting our emotions control us. Our emotions can serve us well if they don’t become our masters.
2. We’re learning to detox from destructive family patterns.
My father was driven by a fear of failure. This led him to work 60–80 hours each week, which eventually led to his death at the age of 59. Left to my own devices, I will live a live driven by the same fear, and I’d likely experience the same fate. We all inherit destructive family patterns. Whether it’s fear, anger, pride, codependency, impulsive spending, or any number of other dysfunctions. These conditions can become so embedded within us that they can define our destiny. But Jesus invites us to a new way. Before we move forward we must go backward and investigate and identify the destructive family patterns that we’ve inherited.
EHS provides encouragement, sets expectations, and provides tools that have helped us engage with this. By charting and investigating our genograms, identifying the implicit messages that we inherited, and analyzing the impact that “earthquake events” have had on our family, Jesus guides us out of that old way of life and invites us to live a new reality.
3. We’re learning how to carry pain and grief.
Each person in every congregation in the world will experience grief, pain, loss, and trauma. It will transform their lives forever. The question is: How will it transform them? What will be the lasting impact? Fr. Richard Rohr has said, “Pain that is not transformed will surely be transmitted.” If we gaze across the landscape of churches in America today, we will be hard pressed to find many who are equipping their people to live well through pain and grief. Lament, the ancient mode of processing pain and loss, is virtually absent in most churches today. EHS attempts to remedy this. The course has given us a framework to normalize grief so we can prepare people for how to respond when they hit the wall of grief and loss, as Pete Scazzero puts it. If we can help people grow in patience to wait on God before they’re in the midst of grief and loss, they’re better prepared to engage grief and grow through it instead of dying in it.
4. We’re learning to see lament as a catalyst for mission.
Going through EHS together has helped form NewStory for mission in our city. As we’ve dealt with our own past, grief, and identity, we have become deeply invested and engaged in the tragic areas of our city, namely racial injustice, gun violence, mental illness, and refugee displacement. There is much to grieve about all of this. EHS has encouraged us to create space and give permission to grieve, using lament to navigate through grief.
For example, we hold prayer vigils at locations of recent gun violence and homicides in our neighborhood, and we are in the planning stages for holding quarterly lament services. One might think that taking time and energy to create space and opportunities might slow our efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lament humbles us, empowers us, and deepens our missional engagement. Our impact over time is much greater because grief and lament can sustain our engagement in a complicated and deadly world. After all, there’s no room for triumphal “we’re gonna change the world” lingo in the midst of such overwhelming suffering. We have to acknowledge and accept reality as it is and proceed humbly from there.