The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
I was teaching UrbanPromise Academy sophomores about how emotions play out in our bodies when Andrea’s eyes opened wide. She slapped her open hands, palms down, on the black chemistry table then slid her hands toward her, leaving trails of sweat. “This! What does this mean??” She didn’t understand what was happening in her body and that made her afraid and anxious.
Growing up in concentrated urban poverty means too many of our children experience toxically stressful living situations, filled with unpredictability, hunger and exposure to violence. The universal human response to chronic adversity is numbness…because you can’t stuff down bad feelings without pushing down good feelings too. It’s just the way we are wired.
Ours is an incarnational faith. I believe Jesus came in a body for a reason! Our bodies are sacred; and when they are trying to communicate with us, we need to listen. That’s why we focus on teaching about emotions, and empower our youth with mindfulness practices, teaching how to get in touch with their bodies, emotions and thoughts with compassion and without judgment. We learn to look at and to love ourselves through God’s eyes.
By asking Andrea, “What happened to you?”, she was able to connect her sweaty palms to her father’s anger towards herself and her mother before school that morning. This realization occurred at UrbanPromise – a loving, safe, predictable and relational environment. A place of healing. This insight helped her know that she wasn’t crazy and lessened her fear about her body. She came to understand that by listening to her body she could gain a sense of control.
This season we celebrate Emmanuel, Christ with us. This incarnate Word points the way to deep healing from the brokenness of this world; brokenness with which our youth are all too familiar. Learning acceptance of what is – in our bodies—opens the door to hope for what can be…lives lived with intention, called to serve the one who was born in a lowly manger.
Reflection: Poet Reiner Maria Rilke writes, “let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” What feeling are you carrying that you would rather not acknowledge? What would happen if you invited Christ into that feeling?”