Looking Beneath the Surface
By Bethany Allen
Bethany Allen teaches from Matthew 26:36-46 on the journey of looking beneath the surface of our emotions and the importance of allowing God to do the hard, healing work within us. Bethany is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation & Leadership Development at Bridgetown Church in Portland.
Looking Beneath the Surface
By Bethany Allen

Emotionally Healthy Relationships: Explore the Iceberg (05.27.19)

Opening (5 mins)

Begin your time together by reading the simple words below, and then taking three minutes of silence in the presence of the Lord.

Each week we gather to praise our God, 
to give ourselves over to our God 
and to ask our God for help

We believe when we gather, He is with us
We believe when we openly confess our hearts, we become more like Him
We believe in Christ we are our truest selves, 
created to love and serve others for the sake of the world

Intro Activity: Breaking The Ice-berg (10 mins)

Last week, we discussed how we all come into the family of Jesus with brokenness and wounds from being born into a broken world and imperfect families – but that the Lord provides us with hope and grace in abundance, which more than covers us. It is God’s intention to renew and heal each of us by providing us with a greater awareness of positive and negative relational patterns in our past.

As we learn to “explore the iceberg” of our hidden or subconscious emotions this week, let’s look back to childhood experiences with our families of origin.

When we are children, our emotions and reactions are much more raw, unfiltered, and intense – and we express them to others in ways that are unashamed and unembarassed. Sometimes this can result in funny or memorable moments!

As a group, share some moments from your own childhood. Were there moments where you felt strongly and reacted in a way that was particularly memorable or funny?

Made up example: When I was in 2nd grade, we all looked forward to the annual Scholastic Book Fair. When we found out we weren’t having it that year, I was livid! I started a petition to bring back the Book Fair and had everyone in my class sign it. I gave it to my principal, sure it would work – sadly, it didn’t! But the story of the Book Fair petition lives on.

Discuss: Jesus & Exploring The Iceberg (30-35 mins)

Through our experiences as children, we learn how to express, process, and understand our deepest feelings in ways that are spiritually mature and immature.

In some families or even Christian circles, repressing or disavowing authentic emotion is considered a virtue or perhaps even a “gift from the Spirit.” Denying anger, ignoring pain, turning from loneliness, and avoiding doubt are not only considered normal, but virtuous.

As a group, discuss the following questions:

However, this is not the model we find in Jesus, who freely expressed his emotions without shame or embarrassment:

We read him responsibly experiencing the full range of human emotions throughout his earthly ministry – and sharing these emotions freely with those close to him. This was a part of his faithfulness in following the Father’s unique plan for his life (serving others to the point of death), and breaking away from the expectations of his family, friends, disciples and the crowds.

Jesus focused on serving others through his own emotional awareness: he invites those around him to explore their own icebergs by listening to their stories and asking probing, loving questions and conversation.

Consider the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus meets in the middle of the day in John 4. Read the following passages from their interaction out loud:

“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus replied, “Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…. a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks…”

The woman said, “I know that the Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

As a group, discuss this moment, specifically:

In His love and compassion, Jesus went below the surface of the Samaritan woman’s actions to wrestle with bigger life-related questions: Why are you at the well in the middle of the day? Why are you running from husband to husband? What void are you trying to fill? He helps her explore the iceberg of her own emotions and actions to more fully see her need for His redemptive grace and love.

Take a few moments to respond to the following questions as a group:

Practice: Icebergs With Friends (30-35 mins)

As we practice “exploring the iceberg” with each other, remember that helping others become aware of their own emotions through this exercise is a Christ-like way of loving and serving others well.

Also, remember these three key truths about emotions from Emotionally Healthy Relationships:

  1. Unprocessed emotions don’t die.
  2. Healthy community requires that people know themselves.
  3. Feelings help us discern God’s voice.

Now, partner up with someone near you and go through the following questions. Focus on actively listening to and encouraging your partner’s iceberg exploration.

Leader note:depending on the time available and the size of your CG, you can either spend the full time for this exercise in partner discussion or come back to the group with 10-15 minutes left and share your experiences with this activity.

If you choose to share with your larger group: what was this like for you? Was there anything that came up you were surprised by or didn’t realize you were feeling before?

With all this in mind, how do we introduce this practice of discipleship into our daily lives? Here are a few suggestions:

Conclusion (5 mins)
Before leaving, read the following prayer by Richard Rohr together over the group to give thanks for the beauty and freedom that is spiritual and emotional discipleship to Christ:

I thank you, Lord Jesus, for becoming a human being so I do not have to pretend or try to be a God. 
I thank you, Lord Jesus, for becoming finite and limited, so I do not have to pretend I am infinite and limitless….
I thank you, Lord Jesus for becoming inferior, so I do not have to pretend I am superior to anyone. 
I thank you for becoming weak, so I don’t have to be strong. 
I thank you for being willing to be considered imperfect and strange, so I do not have to be perfect and normal. 
I thank you, Lord Jesus, for being willing to be disapproved of, so I do not have to try so hard to be approved and liked. 
I thank you for being considered a failure, so I do not have to give my life trying to pretend I am a success…
I thank you, Lord Jesus, for being all of the things humanity despises and fears, so I can accept myself and others in you.

Then, take two minutes of silence to contemplate what we’ve discussed together today and rest in the overwhelming love and grace Christ provides to you.

Note for this week:

Remember, the practices we embrace as a part of emotional and spiritual maturity are nota set of laws for us to follow to help us self-optimize or “become our best selves.”

Instead, practicing these rhythms of discipleship allows God to remind us of the abundant grace and love he extends to us, and allows Him to continue transforming us to become more Christ-like in approachability, kindness, and gentleness.