Jenny Sung: Permission to Feel More Than Gratitude

We all know there are many things to be grateful for and at the same time there is a deep exhaustion, time feels weird, and trauma is real. We all have people in our worlds we love and others who are at best annoying us, at worst breaking our hearts. A year ago this time we were only able to have Thanksgiving with our immediate households, and now we have the choice to be together. Will it be a time filled with long hugs and happy tears or 6+ feet of emotional and physical separation because many of us are just too raw, too mangey?

Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum, your whole self gets to exist, not just the grateful parts. All that has been broken, wounded, strengthened in you is not for naught. We have felt the edge of our capacity and maybe even willed ourselves a little beyond it. We have cried, and laughed, hoped, and hurt. We have felt lonely, afraid, worn out, and anxious. We have embraced loved ones, we have witnessed beauty in our collective strength and sorrow in disconnection.

Amidst all the things you have to get done this week, may you have spaciousness to catch your breath, relax your shoulders, and breathe. You are wholly seen. You are wholly known. You are holy Beloved.

Remember the story of Noah’s Ark? Wow, that story is terrifying. Once you get past the cute animals you’re left with death, destruction, and inconsolable grief. Why do we share this story in Sunday School? God destroys just about everything and yet ... God doesn’t. Maybe part of the hidden beauty is the promise that something survives. Even after all of this heartache and woe, something will survive … something will last. We are resurrection people.

This fall I went on a pilgrimage led by Rev. Don Carlson with LEAD visiting places throughout Turkey and Greece where apostle Paul journeyed, and you know what we saw over and over?

Ruins … so many ruins.

In Philippi we saw the first Christian Church built in 314 CE, and now it sits in ruins. We saw the ruins of wealthy cities and powerful empires. We saw the tombs of Emperors who were worshipped like Gods and to dust they have returned. No amount of money or power kept them from crumbling. After seeing site after site of ruins, you wonder what’s the point? What will survive? Even now many worry about the institution of the Church. Everything turns to dust, and yet … there we sat. A group of 26 humans on this pilgrimage compelled by the same story that drove Paul to these holy spaces.  Despite the many ruins and fallen empires this story continues on. This story continues to draw us close. This story still keeps its promise.

Many of us just celebrated The Reign of Christ Sunday remembering God is God. Everything else we try to worship or lift up turns to dust. As we begin to move into the season of Advent what are you going to put on your ark? What do you want to survive? Think about all you have already survived. We have a whole universe swirling inside of us. In so many ways we are all doing the best we can and in the midst of our best we still hurt people, we still make mistakes, we still grow forward. God continues to hover over our chaos, come to us and make us new in Christ Jesus.

At this time I invite you to take a holy pause, catch your breath and pray:

On the Deep inhale...Pray: “For all I have survived”
On the Full exhale...
Pray: “God, thank you.”
On the Deep inhale...
Pray: “For your grace upon grace”
On the Full exhale...
Pray: “God, thank you”
On the Deep inhale...
Pray: “For this holy pause and your promises”
On the Full exhale...
Pray: “God, thank you”


Reverend Jenny Sung is an ordained free range pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She has been preaching, writing, and curating spaces worldwide for healing through brave love and community art. She received her Masters of Divinity through Luther Seminary and is the founder and co-director of One Dance Company.


Used with permission. Originally posted on Church Anew, a ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, MN.

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