Sankofa – 21 December 2022

Sankofa – 21 December 2022


Yesterday, Nigel informed me that he will not be accepting the offer of a further contract with MUC for 2023. I have asked him to join us at the 1st of January 2023 Worship Service so that we can thank him for his contributions to MUC and pray for him. I know many members are blessed by the pastoral care he offers. Personally, I thank God for him.

The Year 2022

Five days to Christmas and 10 days before the end of 2022. How has 2022 panned out for you? How would you describe the year 2022? Challenging? Exciting? Awful? Grateful? Rough? I encourage you to take some time to reflect on 2022 before the year ends. For some of you you might find it uncomfortable or difficult to reflect. Maybe for some of you a year that you might want to forget. Whatever happened in 2022, good, bad, or ugly I urge you to take a posture of learning: ‘What can I learn from the year 2022?’

For me 2022 has been eventful. I got married to Thari. My second sister’s husband died suddenly. Thari’s eldest brother who had battled cancer for many years died. My eldest brother had a pacemaker implantation, and he celebrated his 80th birthday. Thari and I went back to Singapore in October to celebrate with him and the rest of the family. Spoke to my second sister yesterday and she is having trouble walking and balancing. I am concerned for her. And my only son is having some health issues lately. He had several tests and scans in the last two weeks. He told me that he has an appointment with the doctor today to tell him the result of the tests.

And Manningham Uniting Church has an eventful 2022 too! You know some of the things that have happened in MUC – the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY. We all respond to the things that happen differently. Some of the words I can think of – angry; disappointed; unsafe; upset; isolated; teary; vulnerable; worried; suspicious; outraged; weary; supported; agitated or cynical. For me I am feeling exhausted and hopeful. 

What to do with your Feelings?

Many years ago, I learned this maxim – ‘Emotions are neither right nor wrong, they just are.’ It is what makes us human. Right or wrong is not in the emotion. It’s in the behaviour. What we do with them that matters. For example, if you are angry over something or someone, what do you do with it? You lash out? You raise your voice and say something unkind? You might have the right to be angry (or have good reasons to be angry) but you have no right to act out your anger and hurt someone. Remember saying to someone that it’s not your intention to hurt him or her when you act out your anger is no justification for your behaviour.  

Sometimes it can be hard to deal with anger. But remember that the road to anything worthwhile is going to be filled with obstacles. Resisting this road is only going to make life harder. So, just go with it. Allow yourself to simply feel with no boundaries. Allow yourself the freedom to just be. Do not be a prisoner in your own body simply because your emotions make waves across the surface of your mind. 

Emotions are tools. They let you know where you are in your life and if you need to make changes. They are the body’s way of letting you know that you need to find time for yourself. Yes, this time may be filled with tears, but it is still time taken to allow yourself to grow and heal. Overall, all emotions provide guidance and leave rooms for growth.

Befriend Your Emotions

Over the years I have also learned to BEFRIEND my emotions. Yes, make them your friends. Your ally. Our emotions, whether they are comfortable or not, serve a function and can give us important information about our lives and our wellbeing. So instead of engaging in battle with our emotions, we might try befriending them instead.

Pause and ask yourself, “What is my friend trying to tell me or show me?” Three steps that I have found helpful to befriend my emotions:

  • Greet your emotions by their names. When someone knows your name, they have given you one of the greatest gifts in the world. That’s because knowing someone’s name tells them that they are seen, known, and connected. Our feelings deserve the same respect. So, the first step is to pause and name the specific emotions you are experiencing.
  • Thank your emotions for visiting. Even if a friend approaches whom we don’t want to see at that moment, we usually still thank them for the visit. We can do the same thing with feelings. For example, we might say, “Hi, worry! I understand you are here to try to keep me safe. Thanks for visiting.” Or, “Oh grief. It makes so much sense that you are visiting me today.”
  • Listen, learn, and go on your way. Our friends usually have a lot to teach us, but only if we are open to what they are saying. Likewise, our feelings can tell us a lot about the realities of our lives – from our relationships to our systems. But Susan David urges us to see our feelings as “data, not directives.” Being willing to learn from our emotions doesn’t mean they get to dictate what we do next. Instead, we can ask for healthy space, practice other expression or containment strategies, or act on what we’ve learned.

Befriend your emotions and learn from them. Make them your allies!

… in the meantime, blessed be. Have a blessed Christmas and safe New Year.

Rev Swee Ann Koh

21st December 2022