Relationship Status: It’s Complicated


Today’s readings:
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28, Romans 2:12-24, John 5:19-29

Emotions can be knotty experiences. Rarely are they tidy, discrete, easily identified conditions that we can distill to the smiley and frowny emojis punctuating our text messages. Usually emotions are interdependent and tangled and deep and as hard to unearth as ancient tree roots.

Anger may be the most complicated of all, because it is almost always a secondary emotion that develops as a defense against fear or pain. Anger, while not inherently bad, can be destructive in our relationships firstly because most of us are not skilled at identifying its true root, and secondly because we are not comfortable cracking the shell of anger to expose the soft underbelly of “weaker” emotions it protects. Divorces, for example, are so bitter partly because it takes a lot of anger to mask a lot of pain.

When Jeremiah describes God’s anger at Israel, he compares their relationship to unfaithful lovers or ungrateful children. The imagery communicates the anguish underlying God’s wrath. The Israelites have pained him in terrible ways. Damage in this relationship is deeper than a breach of contract between business partners, or resentment between master and servant.  God is not imposing a calculated transactional penalty like an employer docking wages or a bank revoking credit. He is mourning a broken relationship and its inevitable consequences.

Jeremiah’s call for repentance raises anger among the people. Their anger is a defense around their shame. Their shame comes from knowing they are not in right relationship with God. We repeat this pattern many times, in many relationships, with many people. Repentance means accepting we have been wrong at a level so fundamental we must change our way of thinking, and that is a fearful thing to do. If we respond to that fear with anger – by hardening our hearts – we have little chance of repenting.

To be in right relationship with other people, including ourselves, we must first be in right relationship with God. To be in right relationship with God, we must risk being vulnerable. That crack of vulnerability is all God needs to flood our hearts and transform our souls

Comfort: All your emotions are allowed.

Challenge: Don’t be afraid to explore emotions that make you feel vulnerable.

Prayer: Loving God, give me the courage and wisdom to know myself. Amen.

Discussion: How would you describe your relationship with your emotions?

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