Back to Top

The Emotions of Hearts Exchanged

I had the great fortune this past year to be invited to join the first cohort of Hearts Exchanged. I knew going into it that I would learn some new things, and that some of these things might be unpleasant. What I didn’t expect was that I would feel so many different things along the way. 

First, I actually felt comforted. The Indigenous learning framework used for this process - the Circle of Courage - started out with Belonging, which also happens to be the first of Faith Formation's “Building Blocks of Faith”. So we started in familiar territory, and the facilitators did a wonderful job of fostering that sense of belonging, setting the tone for a safe and respectful group. I immediately felt that these were people with whom I could learn, listen and share openly.

This turmoil eventually led me to feel deeply convicted about the process.

Then, as I dove into the assignments and resources, I felt overwhelmed with the complexity of the issues. There are no easy answers to addressing generations of hurt! I felt shocked and somewhat betrayed by the myths I had unthinkingly accepted in my own life. There was almost as much un-learning to do as there was learning. 

As the sessions went on, I felt increasingly angry. I was repeatedly struck by the arrogance of our Euro-centric worldview, with its disregard for other image-bearers of God and their ways of understanding. I even started to resent Christianity itself for believing that we have all the answers to the big questions of life... Which in turn made me feel rather nervous - was this process destroying my faith?! (Spoiler: no, it wasn’t - but it did unsettle many of my assumptions, in a healthy way.) 

This turmoil eventually led me to feel deeply convicted about the process. The work of humbly listening to the oppressed and disregarded was so important if I was to take the words of Jesus seriously. It was a process of diligently deconstructing the colonization in my own heart (I called it “meticulous mayhem;” you can see a poem I wrote about that here).

I needed a program just like this to guide me, challenge me, and give me the support required

Although it has been humbling, overall the Hearts Exchanged process has left me feeling encouraged. I met a network of people who are on this same journey, and have probably felt many of the feelings I’ve mentioned. We are at different points along the way, but that’s ok. We’ve kept each other accountable this far, and will keep encouraging one another as we learn and do more. I feel empowered because I’m much better equipped for tough conversations - I have the confidence to challenge misinformation when I hear it, and hopefully the humility to listen when I inevitably screw up and need correction myself.

Finally, I feel so grateful that the CRC is offering the Hearts Exchanged program. The need for it was recognized over two decades ago! I experienced the Blanket Exercise in 2012, and read the Truth and Reconciliation Report in 2015, but it was too easy to become overwhelmed by my smallness in the face of such complex issues, and to just turn away. As much as I wanted to learn and do more, I never would have done this on my own. I needed a program just like this to guide me, challenge me, and give me the support required for such an undertaking. 

“In braiding sweetgrass— so that it is smooth, glossy, and worthy of the gift— a certain amount of tension is needed. As any little girl with tight braids will tell you, you have to pull a bit. Of course you can do it yourself— by tying one end to a chair, or by holding it in your teeth and braiding backward away from yourself— but the sweetest way is to have someone else hold the end so that you pull gently against each other, all the while leaning in, head to head, chatting and laughing, watching each other’s hands, one holding steady while the other shifts the slim bundles over one another, each in its turn. Linked by sweetgrass, there is reciprocity between you, linked by sweetgrass, the holder as vital as the braider.”

-Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

This is what our Hearts Exchanged cohort did for me. We leaned in and held the tension for each other. The group met me where I was, in a quest for learning and action that has started to give me a heart of flesh where I didn’t even realize I had a heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19). Of course I haven’t arrived at a destination yet, but I’m more confident and equipped to continue, and I’d like to invite others along with me. I can’t promise it will be entirely painless - but like any heart surgery, it is life-giving and entirely worth it.

You can sign up to be part of Hearts Exchanged cohorts starting in the fall!  More information here.  

The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.