Have you ever been to a wild house party that turned into a prayer meeting revival? My friends and I have, but we planned for it to be that way—at least as much as a group of faith-rooted activists, organizers, and seminarians could plan when making room for the Holy Spirit in the basement of my duplex in North Minneapolis, MN. A couple dozen of us came together on a Friday night to dance to the funky breakbeats of a live DJ, start a rap battle where the competitors attempted to one up each other with compliments, host a worship-themed open mic, and of course, enjoy a potluck. The night culminated with several minutes of intense prayer as we shouted out all the things we wanted to see die in the world, things like poverty, war, and racism. The shift that occurred in the room was palpable.
It was uncomfortable. But it was holy.
Uncomfortable, because after hours of dancing, laughing, eating, and celebrating life, it pained us to name the ugliness that still exists in the world—an ugliness that also exists in us. But it was holy because we didn’t run from this truth.
We often want to jump too quickly to beauty.
But there is a season for all things. And it was in that contemplative moment of vulnerability that I was reminded of the time that is needed to lament and process grief for all that we have lost, what we long for. Healing is a process, not an event.
In order to experience healing, we have to listen to the suffering. We can’t grow without being stretched. Discomfort can be one of our greatest teachers, moving us from where we are to where we are called to be.
And here we were called, in a neighborhood that has historically endured socioeconomic oppression and racial trauma; recognizing the depth of our spiritual wounds and crying out to a God we believe suffers with us. That is Holy Discomfort, allowing the time and space for our wounds to speak and guide us toward healing.
Easy to ignore
It’s become too easy for discomfort to be ignored or denied, especially if there are systems and institutions constructed only for comfort— but those who push to the margins feel it every day. Those whose live experiences, human dignity, and expressions of divinity are rendered invisible by cultural exclusion and ethnocentrism.
No one wants to talk about these uncomfortable topics—racism, patriarchy, misogyny, homophobia— because they make people feel “uncomfortable.” But some of us have already been uncomfortable for generations and now it’s time to move towards healing. If not here (at our churches or schools or in our homes or wherever the discomfort arises), then where? If not now, then when? If not us, then who? Here and now is the place and time for us, as a community of people who support and care for each other, to cultivate brave spaces and courageous conversations, allowing the Holy Discomfort to stir us towards healing and transformative action.