It was a beautiful summer day in Seattle and I had just finished an early morning shift at a coffee shop (4:30 a.m start time!). I was walking up the path to my apartment, thinking about nothing in particular except for perhaps a nap. Suddenly, I felt a stark and very direct question enter in to my mind. It was not a whisper from God. More like a shouted, “Hey, wake up, I’ve got a question for you!” sort of moment.
“What do you really think of ________?”.
I’m leaving out a name at the end of that sentence. It’s not important. What is important is this was someone who had hurt me. Hurt me more deeply than I thought possible. Hurt me in ways that I would still be dealing with many, many years later. But, I was being a good Christian about it. Quickly worded forgiveness, turning the other cheek, responding with “I’m ok, you’re ok” niceties.
But then this moment, with this question, came along.
I wasn’t thinking about this person or that situation so my guard was down. God knew that it would be. Before I could remember my normal script of “I forgive and release him! I pray God’s best for him!” an answer welled up within me and exploded into my heart and mind.
“He’s a f*&$#ing a$%hole!!!!!”
The magnitude of the anger startled and scared me. Up until that moment I had never entertained even a hint of that sentiment towards him. Everything was nicely packaged and under control. My ability to keep things under control can be a real curse I’ve come to learn.
I went up into my apartment and sat on my couch and just stared. What had just happened? Why had I just turned in to an angry woman with the mouth of a sailor?
And so on that summer day and in that way, my journey toward healing finally began. And it started with anger.
Anger is a funny thing. We know anger can be “righteous” or “unrighteous”. We interpret righteous anger as anger that is socially acceptable. Anger where we keep our voices down, say, “I’m really angry and I mean it!”, pray a prayer and then quickly move on.
A few months after my sailor outbursts I studied the book of Nahum in the Bible. Nahum can be a confusing book but one thing is not confusing, God is really, really angry.
Historically, one nation was viciously abusing Israel. God looked at his daughter, and could not just sit, watching the abuse. He could not calmly say, “Well, that’s just not nice. Come on everybody, let’s get along!”. No, his fatherly love demanded anger.
With that picture, I finally understood that God cared, he wept, he grieved. I understood that He is angered when his people are hurt, abused, betrayed and broken. God’s anger validates that the wound truly exists and that it truly is painful.
Anger is one of the most healing emotions because anger says, “This is not ok, I am not ok.”
What happened to me is soul crushing and the reason why is… I am more valuable than that.”
The absence of anger is the choice to remain unaffected by sin.
The absence of anger is to agree that the wound and the wounded are of no significance. Not worthy of getting all worked up over.
The presence of anger is the acknowledgment of the depth of the wound and the deep value of the one wounded.
I have many, many students who deal with deep wounds from their parents. They all try so hard to not be angry, the very thing they should feel. For years they seek to “honour their father and mother”. By honour they mean, deny the hurt and remain unaffected by it.
When I tell them it is ok to be angry many instantly just begin weeping. They are acknowledging for the first time that their father or mother hurt them. Acknowledging their own deep wounds and thereby confirming that were not treated in accordance with their true value.
It is so painful to watch as they sob deeply but I know how healing it is to acknowledge their own value for the first time in their lives. They are finally absorbing the truth. Righteous anger screams out, “I was not treated in accordance to my value!!”
As I watched the angry racial events in Missouri and across America unfold, all I could think is, “I’ve felt that. I’ve felt exactly that”. I haven’t experienced the same thing as African-Americans have, but I know the anger that bursts out of it’s walls, suddenly, screaming with hot emotion, “I’m. Worth. More!!”
Many of us sit for years, pain after pain piling up until one final pain touches on them all and God loudly speaks that question, “How do you really feel about_______?”
If we obsess over answering with the right tone of voice and carefully chosen words, we miss the point entirely. If I focused on my swearing and boiling anger I’ve missed the point entirely. If we obsess on the few acts of violent protest in Missouri we’ve missed the point entirely.
Anger acknowledges value. Anger acknowledges worth. Anger sometimes comes rushing forth for healing to come pouring in.
Are there areas in your life that you’ve never allowed yourself to be angry over?
What value, freedom and healing are you then missing?
Photo Credit: Andrew McCluskey