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I’ve learned a miracle phrase. I think I learned it from Glennon Doyle’s podcast – a little parenting tip that turns out to be applicable across human relationships. It sounds like this:

“That makes sense.”

When my tween is raging that his brother is the favorite child who never helps with the dishes and always gets to choose what to watch on TV, “It makes sense that you feel that way” is like magic. I can visibly watch his temperature go down. He may still resent his brother, but the act of normalizing his concern somehow grants him the ability to function again amidst a world so full of little-brother induced injustices.

I get it; it works on me, too. When I’m in an argument with my husband, his “that makes sense” lands so differently for me than even a sweet phrase like, “I hear you.” I admit that “I hear you” sometimes sounds like he’s being held hostage by my histrionics. But “that makes sense” says something else. It says, “It’s completely reasonable to be sad/angry/frustrated right now.” I guess it makes me feel like a human being. (Even when the next words are, “…but I see it differently.”)

Greater than our need to win, it would seem, is our need to connect. To feel seen by another and accepted. When I was trained in Restorative Practices, this was a key leadership takeaway for me: people are more likely to accept a decision they hate if they feel they have been seen, considered, and treated with dignity during the process. 

And lets be honest, there’s a lot to hate right now. I read an article about a group of moms in Boston who recently organized a gathering with one purpose: to scream. The collective rage of parenting during an endless pandemic, where every finish line turns into another turn in the labyrinth, has reduced them to that one choice. Just scream into the abyss. 

Oh, that makes sense to me. “Hear our cry, O Lord.”

Lament has always confounded me as a Christian, never having had much experience with what it looks like practically. But I’ve discovered one thing that works for me: imagining a God who doesn’t abide by my whining with a holy eye roll, but who sits with me. Listens well. Nods. Sighs. And then says, “Oh, honey. It makes so much sense to feel that way.” 

A God like that makes me feel more human. More beloved. A little more able to function in a world that makes me want to scream.

A God like that makes lament make sense.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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