On a recent episode of Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam on National Public Radio, he interviewed neuropsychologist Lisa Feldman Barret about where feelings come from. You can find the podcast in a quick internet search. Barret has a new book called Seven and a Half Lessons about the Brain.

She shares a story about her daughter training for her first-level black belt in karate. Her daughter was a little less than five feet tall at the time and she had to spar against much bigger competitors to earn the designation.

Her sensei looked at her warming up and coached her saying, “get your butterflies flying in formation.”

Barret explains that our brain is constantly trying to predict what kind of output is needed in the next moment. Most of this response is driven by metabolic efficiency and the stewarding of resources.

In karate, Barret’s daughter needs the fuel of the feeling of nerves or butterflies, both the adrenaline and the courage, but she also needs to channel those feelings positively to be her best. She needs to get her butterflies flying in formation.

This might be some of what the Psalmist is crying out to God for in creating a clean or right heart. It’s a mixture of trust and spiritual alignment. For everything to be flying in formation. To trust who God is and who God has made.

Not that we ever have it completely figured out or that we can just manufacture a different reality than we are in.

But also that God has wired us marvelously—for mercy and love and grace and compassion. For restoration and healing no matter what we face.

It occurs to me that anything worth doing might cause us to be nervous. Especially responding from the depth of our faith.

Anything worth changing in our lives. Any big project at work or school. Anything that makes the world a better place for us and our neighbors.

I am almost certain that this was the case for the first disciples responding to Jesus’ call to join in the harvest work of the Gospel. As far as we can tell, these early companions didn’t have extensive theological training or financial acumen, or professional ministry skills, but their task from Jesus was often get their butterflies flying in formation.

To experience the nearness of God’s love. To share in the giving and receiving of gifts. To keep learning and growing and mustering the courage to try again each new day.

That seems like much of the same task that we are invited into in 2024. Trusting God to continue to restore and sustain us.

As we quickly move into the season of Lent and Easter, where butterflies signal the joy of resurrection transformation, I look forward to the ways we seek to fly in formation together.

Which is always worth doing and always transformative.

In the mind of Christ,

Pastor Peter