As you may have gathered I am a huge fan of Brene Brown. I have now decided that not only is she totally brilliant but she is actually a prophet in our time! I have come to this startling conclusion because I had an ‘ah ha’ moment while discussing Brueggemann’s take on Psalms at our last Old Testament session on the CMS pioneer mission leadership training course.
In his book ‘The Prophetic Imagination’, Brueggemann talks about the prophet telling us what time it is. In other words, the prophet is able to read the signs of the times and awake God’s people to what is really going on. They do this by unmasking the distorted reality we have been seduced by and are sleep-walking around in. This is so we can actively demonstrate that there is another way. The radically, transformative power of God’s alternative Kingdom at work in the world characterised by justice, peace, compassion and joy i.e. the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10). However, the influence of what he calls the ‘royal consciousness’ that keeps us numb to systems of injustice and oppression and content with unfulfilling work and mindless entertainment is carefully concealed and all-pervading.
As I was thinking about this, I remembered how in her TED talk ‘The power of vulnerability’, Brene Brown suggests that in our post-modern Western culture we numb our emotions. She says, because we do not have the courage or belief in ourselves as worthy to be loved, we cannot face the pain of grief, loss, disappointment and rejection so we push them away and use drugs, alcohol, eating, shopping or over work to block them out. Yet to really live and enjoy the meaningful relationships we have been created for, we cannot shut out these emotions because they are an essential part of the process and are actually what make us human. As are love, hope, wonder and excitement, the feelings that deep down we all crave which get denied along with the so-called ‘negative’ ones.
Over the last 3 years particularly, through study, counselling and practicing vulnerability, I have endeavoured to wake up and stop being numb. The consequences of this have been at times almost unbearable pain. In fact, during my therapy session yesterday I had a powerful urge to punch my counsellor! I did, you will be glad to hear, resist this temptation. But when I was telling her my overwhelming sense of despair and her response was “change is uncomfortable” you will perhaps sympathise with my reaction! That said, I do not want to live a dulled existence. I will continue to suffer by choosing to confront the things that bind me and struggle on to find some healing and reconciliation because I am not going to settle for less than what God desires. I will not be blind to the lie of capitalism, materialism and rationalism anymore. And I will be honest about the battle because I also want those with whom I am in community to enjoy all that God has for them.
It is my birthday tomorrow and when I went away to university my parents gave me a copy of ‘The Daily Light’. This is a book of bible readings for each day in the year. One of the scripture passages for my birthday is about Jacob wrestling the angel. In this story, Jacob says to the divine being he is grappling with, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Gen. 32:26) Every year I am reminded that this is the continual cry of my heart. But perhaps each birthday I am a little more aware of the presence and the blessing that is already mine but which I am still working hard to fully appropriate.